STaARS BioScience-5 (STaARS BioScience-5) - 03.28.18

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ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
STaARS BioScience-5 studies how Staphylococcus aureus loses its harmful properties and changes color in microgravity. Automated culturing equipment grows S. aureus before delivering cultures to an observation chamber for data collection at predetermined time points. To understand the growth rates and morphology of the bacterium for an extended growth period, a microscope and spectrophotometer are both used.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Sarah Wallace, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details

OpNom: STaARS BioScience-5

Principal Investigator(s)
Sarah Wallace, Ph.D., NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, United States

Information Pending

Space Technology and Advanced Research Systems, Inc., Houston, TX, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
National Laboratory (NL)

Research Benefits
Earth Benefits, Space Exploration, Scientific Discovery

ISS Expedition Duration
September 2017 - February 2018

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
Information Pending

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • STaARS BioScience-5, may support previous terrestrial studies and provide additional understanding as to why the opportunistic skin pathogen, Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus), loses both its characteristic color and pathogenicity when in microgravity.
  • Therapy derived from data collected during the study potentially helps the 30% of humans that naturally have S. aureus growing on their skin, and help the general population from the spread of this opportunistic pathogen.
  • A drug discovery project also tests the interaction of a drug compound on a specific cell type. The expected results and impact are reserved due to agreements with the pharma client.


STaARS BioScience-5 delves deeper into the virulent properties of and the response of proprietary drugs on Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus). S. aureus is named for its golden color, “aurum” is Latin for gold. While this eponymous feature is characteristic of virtually all S. aureus strains, the carotenoid responsible for the golden pigmentation is drastically repressed during spaceflight-analog culture. This visibly apparent alteration in pigmentation in response to culture in a spaceflight-analog environment by S. aureus serves as a highly visual and easy-to-read biological indicator of a spaceflight response. It also provides the potential to elucidate unknown levels of regulation that enable adaptation to the spaceflight environment. Moreover, through the exploitation of this spaceflight-analog response, substantial insight is gained towards the therapeutic disarming of pathogens on Earth, as pigmentation is a hallmark of and involved in the virulence of numerous pathogenic microbes, specifically methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA). While the biochemical pathways supporting carotenoid biosynthesis are well defined, the regulatory events affecting their production remain largely uncharacterized. Additionally, a significant question exists as to whether a microbe can regulate the biosynthesis of its pigments in favor of survival under varying environmental conditions. A knowledge gap remains regarding the underlying biochemical and molecular genetic changes responsible for alterations in pigment production. Understanding the mechanism(s) that drive(s) these phenotypic adaptations is essential given the prominent role of pigmentation in the virulence of pigmented pathogens (including MRSA) and, conversely, for the potentially beneficial antioxidant properties of pigments in promoting human health. As the true spaceflight environment provides researchers with a unique and powerful tool to unveil previously undiscovered regulatory biological processes that naturally occur on Earth but are not always detectable using traditional laboratory approaches, the use of spaceflight as a platform for STaARS BioScience-5 holds enormous potential for novel basic research discoveries and translational potential to improve human health. The second experiment description are controlled by STaARS and the client. All operations of the Nexus lab required for this project are conducted remotely by STaARS.

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Space Applications
STaARS BioScience-5 demonstrates the use of space facilities to perform basic research and drug development. The experiment provides novel information concerning microbiological effects in microgravity, which can serve hygiene, pathology and future research planning for space facilities. By performing proprietary pharmaceutical research, STaARS BioScience-5 also demonstrates how space capabilities and facilities aim to support private enterprise.

Earth Applications
STaARS BioScience-5 informs strategies for reducing infectious risks on Earth and assists in drug development. Understanding molecular and biological mechanisms for reduced virulence serves efforts to manage foodborne illnesses, hygiene in health care facilities and animal agriculture. By providing unique information on drug efficacy in space, STaARS BioScience-5 also supports Earth-based pharmaceutical research and private enterprise.

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Operational Requirements and Protocols

STaARS delivers the S. aureus and macrophage cells’ required growth media and test chemicals to the launch site 3 days prior to the handover. S. aureus and nutrient broth are loaded into the Nexus-lab. The macrophage cells, media and test substrates are loaded as well. Under these launch conditions, the cells scientifically stable for 2 weeks. Handoff of the Nexus is done as late load to cold stowage. The Nexus lab requires temperature between 22°C-39°C during assent (optimal is 37°C). Upon arrival to the station, the Nexus lab is installed within the first 48 hours after hatch open. The crew connects the Nexus lab into the STaARS-1 EF for experiment activation. STaARS operates the Nexus-lab and the microscope inside the Nexus lab via ground commanding for the remaining time on orbit. After confirmation of nominal communication and control of the Nexus-Lab, STaARS commands the start of Wallace Nexus project run 1 for a 48 hour run-cycle. After confirmation of run cycle completion, STaARS commands the start of duplicate Nexus run for a 48 hour run-cycle. After both runs are complete, data is transmitted to STaARS and relayed to Wallace. This concludes Wallace Nexus Lab experiments. The drug efficacy experiment is operated remotely and run for a distinct length of time. The full run of the second experiment is no more than 7 days. Following experiment 2, the Nexus-lab is moved to cold stow at 4°C. The Nexus Lab Experiments should start ideally within approximately 48 hours of hatch opening. STaARS operates the Nexus Lab remotely to complete all experiments. At +10 days after installation, the Nexus lab is moved to cold stowage. All payload hardware and/or samples transported to ISS are returned to the ground. The Nexus-lab returns to SpacePharma for analysis of the drug efficacy project. Dr. Wallace receives downlinked data sets from the S. aureus Nexus experiments.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

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Related Websites

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BioScience-5 samples will be processed in Nexus-Lab hardware. Image courtesy of Tom Kyler, Space Technology and Advanced Research Systems, Inc.

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