Crystallization of RAS in Space   (CASIS PCG 17) - 01.23.19

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Crystallization of RAS in Space (CASIS PCG 17) grows crystals of KRAS proteins, which have a pivotal role in cell growth and death. Mutations in KRAS proteins are responsible for a third of all cancers and identifying the structure of these proteins is critical to developing therapeutics and treatments. Protein crystals grow larger and more perfectly in microgravity, allowing for detailed laboratory analysis of their structure back on Earth.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

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

OpNom: PCG-17

Principal Investigator(s)
Dhirendra Simanshu, Ph.D., Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research, Frederick, MD, United States

Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)
Albert Chan, Ph.D., Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research, Frederick, MD, United States
Anna Maciag, Ph.D., Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research, Frederick, MD, United States
Dwight Nissley, Ph.D., Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research, Frederick, MD, United States

Developer(s)
Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research, Frederick, MD, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
National Laboratory (NL)

Research Benefits
Information Pending

ISS Expedition Duration
October 2018 - March 2019

Expeditions Assigned
57/58

Previous Missions
Information Pending

^ back to top

Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • Crystallization of RAS in Space (CASIS PCG 17) aims to grow RAS protein crystals in a microgravity environment to better understand their structure.
  • RAS gene is linked to human cancer.
  • The main members of the RAS gene family include the KRAS, HRAS, NRAS which encode for harmful proteins.
  • Mutations in KRAS proteins are responsible for one-third of all cancers, including those of the colon and lung, and almost all cancers of the pancreas, which are virtually untreatable.
  • High quality crystals may be used to produce three-dimensional shapes and images of the protein that researchers may attach drug molecules to for therapeutic purposes. Microgravity environment is expected to produce better protein crystals.
  • If successful, the CASIS PCG 17 investigation may reveal new physical features of some of the most deadly and difficult to target proteins involved in cancer.

Description
Crystallization of RAS in Space (CASIS PCG 17) aims to grow RAS protein crystals in microgravity to better understand their role in human cancer, which may lead to the creation of improved cancer treatments. After about 30 years of research, developing ways to block RAS gene function, which is linked to cancer, has been ineffective. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) launched the RAS Initiative due to the magnitude of this challenge, as well as the potential clinical benefit. The main members of the RAS gene family—KRAS, HRAS, and NRAS—encode proteins that have a pivotal cytoplasmic role in cell signaling. When RAS genes are mutated, cells grow uncontrollably and evade death signals. RAS mutations also make cells resistant to some available cancer therapies. Although scientists have made great strides in the last 30 years toward understanding the signaling pathways that RAS genes control, many still consider RAS proteins as virtually “undruggable” targets for therapy. Mutant RAS proteins have been difficult to target, in part, because they are defective in an intrinsic enzyme activity, freezing them in the “on” (GTP-bound) state. It is similar to a car with an accelerator that will not release and brakes that will not engage. But advances in technology and improved understanding of RAS signaling and regulation have created opportunities to address this situation. A better understanding of RAS biology and biochemistry, coupled with new ways of targeting undruggable proteins, is likely to lead to new ways of defeating RAS-driven cancers.

^ back to top

Applications

Space Applications
CASIS PCG 17 continues to demonstrate use of the microgravity environment as a laboratory and production facility for next-generation advances in biotechnology.The unique conditions of space, which the space station makes accessible to scientists, facilitate breakthroughs in understanding diseases such as cancer and finding new avenues for their treatment.

Earth Applications
Protein crystals may proliferate more easily and grow larger and more perfect in microgravity than on Earth, providing scientists with critical information for identifying new drug targets and treatments for cancer.

^ back to top

Operations

Operational Requirements and Protocols
Hardware includes the Protein Crystal Growth (PCG) Card, PCG Card 72 Well and the PCG Box containing capillaries. The PCG Card is a commercially available 96 well plate provided by MiTeGen. The PCG Card 72 Well is a commercially available 72 well plate provided by Hampton Research. The PCG Box is a commercially available Western Blot Box provided by Sigma-Aldrich. The PCG Box contains 24 glass capillaries provided by Hampton Research. All experiment solutions are loaded into the hardware units prior to flight and placed into containment bags. All hardware items launch frozen, are transferred to room temperature during the growth period on ISS and return at room temperature approximately 45 days after launch. Following return, all hardware is transferred to the principal investigator for postflight analysis in the laboratory.

^ back to top

Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

^ back to top

Results/More Information

Information Pending

^ back to top

Related Websites
Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research
Frederick National Laboratory Takes Cancer Research into Space

^ back to top


Imagery

image
NASA Image: ISS057E114765 - European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Alex Gerst is photographed with the Crystallization of RAS in Space (CASIS PCG 17) investigation. CASIS PCG 17 grows crystals of KRAS proteins, which have a pivotal role in cell growth and death. Mutations in KRAS proteins are responsible for a third of all cancers and identifying the structure of these proteins is critical to developing therapeutics and treatments. Protein crystals grow larger and more perfectly in microgravity, allowing for detailed laboratory analysis of their structure back on Earth.

+ View Larger Image