Space Tissue Loss - Microbial Immunity (STL-Microbial Immunity) - 12.05.18

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

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Science Objectives for Everyone
Space Tissue Loss - Microbial Immunity (STL-Microbial Immunity) is a Department of Defense Space Test Program payload examines how human cells respond to bacterial infections in space and if normal processes seen on Earth occur in the space environment. This experiment could yield valuable knowledge leading to advances in vaccine development and other therapeutics for treatment, prevention and control of infectious diseases on Earth.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

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


Principal Investigator(s)
Cheryl A. Nickerson, Ph.D., Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, United States

Information Pending

Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Silver Spring, MD, United States
United States Department of Defense Space Test Program, Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
National Laboratory - Department of Defense (NL-DoD)

Research Benefits
Information Pending

ISS Expedition Duration
March 2010 - September 2010

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
The STL experiment model has not previously flown in the CCM, although the hardware has flown on several previous Space Shuttle mission.

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • The Space Tissue Loss - Microbial Immunity (STL-Microbial Immunity) investigation examines how human cell culture responds to infection by bacteria in the microgravity environment in comparison to Earth normal gravity.

  • This study will investigates the immune response of the cell, changes to the cell shape and structures, and gene expression patterns after the cells are infected with bacteria.

  • The experiment will be a controlled study using parallel ground controls and inflight uninfected cells.

The Space Tissue Loss - Microbial Immunity (STL-Microbial Immunity) experiment will be the first fundamental biology experiment to conduct an in-flight infection of human cells using pathogenic bacteria in microgravity. The goal of this experiment is two-fold, to characterize how human cells respond to bacterial infection during space flight, and to characterize human cell immune and stress responses to microgravity, thus providing unique insight into conditions faced by astronauts during space flight, as well as how cells in our bodies normally behave or transition to disease caused by infection, immune disorders or cancer. The knowledge gained from this work may eventually aid in the development of new treatments for infectious diseases, which remain a leading cause of death worldwide.

The Cell Culture Module (CCM) hardware used in STL investigations is designed specifically to study the effects of microgravity on cell culture. For this experiment, off-the-shelf hollow fiber bioreactors are used as basic cell support structures. The CCM allows controlled physiologic maintenance, manipulation, and testing of the cells. The CCM is a completely automated, temperature controlled system designed to help scientists study the effects of microgravity on cells in space. The study includes cultured tissue test materials in continuous flow modules.

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Space Applications
: Exposure to microgravity causes cells to react in a destructive cascade similar to wounds. This breakdown of tissue and function presents serious challenges to the health of humans in space. Astronauts traveling to the moon or Mars in microgravity may experience injury or, initiating the wound healing process. Astronauts exposed to pathogens in space may also experience reduced immune function and susceptibility to infection. The experiment results could help determine new and improved wound healing treatment for astronauts as well as provide further insight into bacteria/host interactions in space.

Earth Applications
Cellular and bacterial microgravity experiments are used to research methods of treating earth-bound injuries and infection where cellular degeneration and decreased immune response can occur in traumatic wounds and unused limbs. The application spans both military and civilian injuries and immune response on Earth.

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Operational Requirements and Protocols
Four rails with individual flow paths and biocreactors will be housed inside the CCM hardware. Two rails will be used for each investigator. The configuration will allow for redundancy in experiments, increasing the probability of successful tests and samples returning to Earth for analysis.
The STL investigations are self contained and requires crew interaction for activation, status checks, and reentry. Rails will contain cell lines treated with different agents. Following return to Earth, the rails will be returned to the respective investigator for in-depth analysis.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

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Results Publications

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Ground Based Results Publications

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ISS Patents

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Related Publications

    Reece JS, Miller MJ, Arnold MA, Waterhouse C, Delaplaine T, Cohn L, Cannon TF.  Continuous Oxygen Monitoring of Mammalian Cell Growth on Space Shuttle Mission STS-93 with a Novel Radioluminescent Oxygen. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 2003; 104(1): 1-11.

    Harris SA, Zhang M, Kidder L, Evans GL, Spelsberg TC, Turner RT.  Effects of Orbital Spaceflight on Human Osteoblastic Cell Physiology and Gene Expression. Bone. 2000; 26(4): 325-331. PMID: 10719274.

    Ikenaga M, Hirayama J, Kato T, Kitao H, Han Z, Ishizaki K, Nishizawa K, Suzuki F, Cannon TF, Fukui K, Shimazu T, Kamigaichi S, Ishioka N, Matsumiya H.  Effect of Space Flight on the Frequency of Micronuclei and Expression of Stress-Responsive Proteins in Cultured Mammalian Cells. Journal of Radiation Research. 2002; 43: S141-S147. DOI: 10.1269/jrr.43.S141. PMID: 12793748.

    Roux SJ, Chatterjee A, Hillier S, Cannon TF.  Early Development of Fern Gametophytes in Microgravity. Advances in Space Research. 2003; 31.1: 215-220.

    Salmi ML, Bushart TJ, Stout SC, Roux SJ.  Profile and Analysis of Gene Expression Changes during Early Development in Germinating Spores of Ceratopteris Richardii. Plant Physiology. 2005; 138: 1734-1745.

    Landis WJ, Hodgens KJ, Block D, Toma CD, Gerstenfeld LC.  Spaceflight Effects on cultured embryonic chick bone cells. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. 2000; 15(6): 99-112. PMID: 10841178.

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Related Websites
Flight Systems Implementation: Space Tissue Loss
US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command

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image NASA Image - s118e10350: Seen in this image is the hardware that houses the Cell Culture Module - Immune Response of Human Monocytes in Microgravity (CCM-Immune Response) and the Cell Culture Module - Effect of Microgravity on Wound Repair: In Vitro Model of New Blood Vessel Development (CCM-Wound Repair) experiments. The experiments were flown on STS118/13A.1 in August 2007.
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