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Cell Biology Technology Demonstration (Cell_Bio_Tech_Demo)


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

Experiment Overview

This content was provided by Kevin Sato, Nicole Rayl, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.

Brief Summary

CellBio will conduct on-orbit validation testing of the CCM-ISS incubator for cell culture experiments and biotechnology on ISS. Included in this test will be experiments that study the cell and molecular biology and function and response to the space flight environment.

Principal Investigator(s)

  • Kevin Sato, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, United States
  • Nicole Rayl, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, United States
  • Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)

    Information Pending

    Information Pending

    Sponsoring Space Agency

    National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

    Sponsoring Organization

    National Laboratory (NL)

    ISS Expedition Duration

    September 2012 - March 2013

    Expeditions Assigned


    Previous ISS Missions

    Information Pending

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    Experiment Description

    Research Overview

    • The focus of Cell Bio Tech Demo is to demonstrate the performance of candidate fluid flow path components and sample handling devices in the space flight environment for design and development of the new ISS life science incubator, Bioculture System.

    • Cell Bio Tech Demo uses four different fluid transfer tray assembles to demonstrate 1) sterile fluid transfer to media bags, 2) sterile isolation of media bags, 3) sample transfer, and 4) yeast growth.

    • Cell Bio Tech Demo demonstrates Crew procedures for conducting fluid and specimen transfer that will be incorporated into the operations of the Bioculture System.


    NASA is developing a new cell biology and microbiology incubator, Bioculture System, which is based on a modification to the Cell Culture Incubator that was used to conduct experiments on over 20 Space Shuttle missions. The Bioculture System is used to conduct long duration life science experiments on ISS. Cell Bio Tech Demo is a technical test of some of the new capabilities of this incubator that supports the design of hardware subcomponents and operational capabilities. The technical demonstration is important because the new incubator is required to allow the International Space Station (ISS) Crew to aseptically access specimens and move solutions and cells between biospecimen chambers and medium feed bags without introducing contaminants that would ruin the experiment.

    Cell Bio Tech Demo supports technical validation of the design of Bioculture subcomponents to support operational requirements for cell biology research in the ISS Cell Culture Module (CCM). The ISS Crew tests the operations and candidate specimen transfer subcomponents using four types of trays that have different configurations for conducting specimen transfer. Two of the Cell Bio Tech Demo Tray types are used to transfer cell medium between either a sample container and a bag or between bags to test aseptic medium transfer. One tray carries fluorescent beads in a liquid solution for transfer to an OptiCell to test moving "specimens" to an analytical container. The fourth tray type carries Saccharomyces cerevisiae (yeast) culture to test the candidate transfer hardware using a live specimen. The yeast are used for educational outreach, too. All but one tray uses a new type of fluid tubing (crimp tubing) that self-seals when it is cut, which are being tested for use. The use of this type of tubing allows permanent aseptic sealing of fluid lines and the establishment of one level of fluid and vapor containment.

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    Space Applications

    Cell Bio Tech Demo tests the candidate fluid tubing, sample handling devices, and procedures for the development of the ISS Bioculture System. The Bioculture System will provide a unique cell and microbiology incubation system that allows short and long duration studies in the space flight environment. Thus, for the first time, scientists are able to conduct cell culture experiments using similar procedures that they use for ground research studies, such as media refeeds, cell subculture, initiation of cultures in the appropriate environment, and sampling and stowage of specimens at required time points. The key to implementing these capabilities is the ability to aseptically transfer specimens and fluids. The Bioculture System allows the Crew to access the biochambers, media bags, and sampling bags. Therefore, the abilities of the System to support good laboratory practices, similar to the ground requirements for sterility, allow for sample transfer and initiation of cultures on-orbit, and allow change out of subcomponents for replenishment of medium allows scientific experiment flexibility that has to date not been possible for space flight cell culture and microbiology experiments.

    Earth Applications

    The Cell BioTech Demo does not have a specific Earth benefit because it is testing hardware functionality for the design of the Bioculture System. However, in the future, the Bioculture System will provide an excellent platform for both academic cell biology and microbiology research and biotechnology utilization on-orbit on ISS that will provide benefits back on Earth in areas such as neurobiology, wound healing, tissue regeneration, cancer biology, discovery biology, and drug discovery and validation.

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    Operational Requirements

    All items flown are to be returned; temperature requirements are in the CS Form. Crew is requested to fill out the Cell Bio Tech Demo questionnaire to obtain their comments on handling of the trays and the procedures.

    Operational Protocols

    • Medium Tray 1: Crew attaches the Media Transfer container to a cannula on the Media Sample Tool. A stopcock is turned and the syringe plunger is pulled to move the medium into the tool. The stopcock is turned and then the plunger is pressed to move the medium into the pre-filled medium bag. The stopcock is turned and the crimp tubing is cut to seal the bag and tubing.

    • Medium Tray 2: The Crew attaches a syringe to a self-sealing connector (Invision connector) attached to the media bag that contains the media+colored dye solution. A volume of the solution is pulled into the syringe. The filled syringe is attached to the Invision connector of the second pre-filled media bag on the tray, and then the dye-colored medium is injected into the second bag. The syringe is removed and the crimp tubing is cut.

    • OptiCell Interface Tray: The Crew attaches a partially pre-filled OptiCell to the blunt end needle of the syringe tool. The Crew pulls on the syringe, which pulls the fluorescent bead solution from the Bead Bag. The Crew turns the stopcock and then depresses the syringe until approximately one-half of the bead solution is injected into the OptiCell. The Crew flips the OptiCell over end-to-end and then inserts the needle into the second port of the OptiCell. The Crew injects the remaining solution into the OptiCell. This procedure is repeated for the remaining two OptiCells. The OptiCells are stored in a separate light tight bag.

    • Specimen Transfer Tray: Crew attaches the Yeast Transfer Container, which carries yeast in stasis, to the blunt end of the Yeast Sample Tool. A stopcock is turned and the syringe plunger is pulled to move the medium into the tool. The stopcock is turned and then the plunger is pressed to move the medium into the pre-filled medium bag. The stopcock is turned and the crimp tubing is cut to seal the bag and tubing. The yeast filled bag is removed from the tray and stowed in a separate bag. The yeast are incubated for approximately 24 hours to 48 hours. The incubation duration puts the yeast into early log phase, results in minimal air bubble formation (bag does not become inflated at this phase of yeast growth). At the end of the incubation, the yeast-filled bags are transfer to the MELFI +4° C Dewar and returned at +4° C.

    • The Crew fills out a brief questionnaire.

    • All trays are returned to their CTB and all items including trash are returned to the payload developer.

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    Results/More Information

    The original CCM flew on 20 Space Shuttle sortie missions where many different aspects of cell biology was studied to understand the impact of the space flight environment on cell function and molecular biology. Past missions include, but are not limited to, NIH-C series, STL series, and commercial cell biotechnology.

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    Related Websites

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    image Cell Bio Tech Demo Specimen Transfer Tray with the Yeast Transfer Container attached. (The Media Tray 1 is identical to this tray.) Image courtesy of NASA.
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    image The Media Tray 2 utilized in the Cell Bio Tech Demo investigation. Image courtesy of NASA.
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    image The Cell Bio Tech Demo Opticell Interface Tray is used to test moving “specimens” to an analytical container. Image courtesy of NASA.
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    Information provided by the investigation team to the ISS Program Scientist's Office.
    If updates are needed to the summary please contact JSC-ISS-Program-Science-Group. For other general questions regarding space station research and technology, please feel free to call our help line at 281-244-6187 or e-mail at JSC-ISS-Payloads-Helpline.