NanoRacks-Beijing Institute of Technology-1: DNA Mismatch during a PCR Reaction Exposed to the Space Environment (NanoRacks-BIT-1) - 01.16.19

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Science Objectives for Everyone
The NanoRacks-Beijing Institute of Technology-1: DNA Mismatch during a PCR Reaction Exposed to the Space Environment (NanoRacks-BIT-1) experiment studies how higher levels of radiation in space affect different types of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) that create the human immune system. Artificial copies of DNA code for both rapidly changing and more stable parts of the immune system are exposed to radiation in both ground-based labs and aboard the International Space Station. The NanoRacks-BIT-1 hardware includes a small, automated reaction device that copies the DNA code and preserves it for return to Earth where ground-based scientists can determine the relative effects of space radiation on the different types of DNA.
Science Results for Everyone
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The following content was provided by Carl Walter Carruthers, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details


Principal Investigator(s)
Yulin Deng, Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT), Beijing, China

Fengyuan Zhuang, Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT), Beijing, China

Lowell Center for Space Science and Technology, Lowell, MA, United States
Beijing Institute of Technology, Beijing, China

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
National Laboratory (NL)

Research Benefits
Information Pending

ISS Expedition Duration
April 2017 - September 2017

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • NanoRacks-Beijing Institute of Technology-1: DNA Mismatch during a PCR Reaction Exposed to the Space Environment (NanoRacks-BIT-1) is possibly a good model for understanding the relationship between gene mutation and biological evolution and the mutagenic efficiency of the space environment.
  • The rules of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) mismatching in antibody encoding genes subjected to space radiation and microgravity will be detected.
  • NanoRacks-BIT-1 sheds light on biology evolution research.


Astronauts face serious health threats during spaceflight. The two major factors that may lead to an astronauts' physiological dysfunction are space radiation and microgravity. Heavy ion radiation, one of the important components of charged particles in orbit, can cause deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) damage and gene mutations. Microgravity can also affect a series of cell physiology functions, including cytoskeleton remodeling, DNA modification, interactions between molecules, etc.
Antibodies are the most important molecules in adaptive humoral immunity. They can bind antigens with high affinity and specificity. The iconic antibody molecule consists of four polypeptide chains, two identical heavy (H) chains and two identical light (L) chains. Both the H and L chains consist of a variable (V) domain and a constant (C) region. The C region is encoded by a C gene and the V region is encoded by V genes which including three kinds of genes (the V, D, joining (J) genes). The V genes encode the antigen-binding regions of antibodies. Despite a clear sequence homology among V sequences from different species, there is a marked plasticity in the organization of the region and in the mechanism for the generation of antibody diversity. The C region’s sequence is constant relatively compared to the V region, and is a key structure for binding Fc receptors and complements. Besides their immune function, antibodies are also a kind of biology element which is conserved between human and other vertebrates including sharks, the evolutionary oldest living organisms. And the constant C regions are conserved domains between mammalian animals.
Does space radiation and microgravity cause gene mutation in the encoding genes of antibodies? How does it happen? Are there differences between the C region and V region genes when the gene mutation happens caused by space radiation and microgravity? Are the C region encoding genes more constant than V region? The relationship between the sequence and stability of genes is one of the still unsolved issues in biological evolution. Is the mechanism of C region’s radiation resistance similar to the principle of biological evolution? NanoRacks-Beijing Institute of Technology-1: DNA Mismatch during a PCR Reaction Exposed to the Space Environment (NanoRacks-BIT-1) detects the rules of gene mutation in antibody encoding genes in a space environment. This project is helpful in answering those questions.
In this project, the mutagenic efficiency of space radiation is studied by detecting the gene mutation rules on the on-obit antibody DNA fragments amplification products in a mini-sized microfluidic chip polymerase chain reaction (PCR) device after spaceflight. The experiments designs are as below:
  • The earth-based research of the antibody gene mutation caused by γ-ray radiation
  1. The development and functional tests of the mini-sized PCR device based on microfluidic chip mechanism: Based on the microfluidic chip PCR device previously taken into the space and completed the DNA fragments amplification successfully, a new mini-sized PCR device has been developed and designed for more samples and higher standards.
  2. The screening experiments of the radiation-sensitive and radiation-resistant genes among the antibody encoding genes: The encoding genes of different domains from antibody C regions and V regions are chosen from the GenBank® database for the following experiments. Then the DNA fragments are synthesized in vitro. The gene mutations are tested after the DNA fragments are radiated by different doses of γ-rays. Then the rules of the frequency, location and bias of the mutation is studied based on those γ-ray experiments.
  3. The simulated spaceflight experiments of the antibody gene amplification in the PCR device:  The simulated spaceflight experiments are completed by letting the radiation-sensitive or radiation-resistant antibody genes amplify in the new developed microfluidic chip PCR device after being radiated by γ-ray.
  • The on-orbit space research of the antibody gene mutation
  1. On-orbit amplification of the DNA fragments from the antibody encoding genes by the mini-sized microfluidic chip PCR device in spacecraft: The selected DNA fragments based on the earth ground research are placed in the micro-chambers of the PCR device before spaceflight. Then the DNA amplification is performed by the PCR device during the spaceflight. The control experiments are completed at the same time by the same PCR device using the same samples on earth.
  2. The study of the gene mutation rules on the on-orbit DNA amplification products: The on-obit DNA amplification products are tested by sequencing and the rules of the frequency, location and bias of the mutation are analyzed by comparing with the earth-ground control DNA amplification products.

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Space Applications
NanoRacks-BIT-1 identifies key areas of radiation risk in the human genome. Understanding how radiation might damage different types of DNA helps protect astronauts during long-term space travel.

Earth Applications
NanoRacks-BIT-1 provides fundamental information about mutation rates and evolution. Understanding why some genes associated with the immune system mutate faster than others, and under what conditions, can help cure disease and identify preventative medical strategies.

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Operational Requirements and Protocols
Installation and removal of payload to/from NanoRacks Platform 1/2. Pre-Programmed experiment activity upon installation to NanoRacks Platform 1/2.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

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Results/More Information

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Results Publications

    Yang C, Deng Y, Ren H, Wang R, Li X.  A multi-channel polymerase chain reaction lab-on-a-chip and its application in spaceflight experiment for the study of gene mutation. Acta Astronautica. 2018 November 29; epub. DOI: 10.1016/j.actaastro.2018.11.049.

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Ground Based Results Publications

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ISS Patents

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Related Publications

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