Fact Sheet

Text Size

Space Tissue Loss - Microbial Immunity (STL-Microbial_Immunity)


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

Experiment Overview

This content was provided by




, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.

Brief Summary

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.

Principal Investigator(s)

  • Cheryl



    , Ph.D., Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, United States
  • Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)

    Information Pending


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

    Sponsoring Space Agency

    National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

    Sponsoring Organization

    National Laboratory - Department of Defense (NL-DoD)

    ISS Expedition Duration

    March 2010 - September 2010

    Expeditions Assigned


    Previous ISS Missions

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

    ^ back to top

    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.

    ^ back to top


    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.

    ^ back to top


    Operational Requirements

    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.

    Operational Protocols

    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.

    ^ back to top

    Results/More Information

    ^ back to top

    Results Publications

    ^ back to top

    Ground Based Results Publications

    ^ back to top

    ISS Patents

    ^ back to top

    Related Publications

      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.
      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.
      Chatterjee A, Hillier S, Cannon TF, Roux SJ.  Early Development of Fern Gametophytes in Microgravity. Advances in Space Research. 2003; 31.1: 215-220.
      Harris S, Zhang M, Kidder L, Evans G, Spelsberg T, Turner R.  Effects of Orbital Spaceflight on Human Osteoblastic Cell Physiology and Gene Expression. Bone. 2000; 26(4): 325-331. PMID: 10719274.
      Matsumiya H, Ikenaga M, Hirayama J, Kato T, Kitao H, Cannon TF, Han Z, Shimazu T, Ishizaki K, Nishizawa K, Ishioka N, Suzuki F, Fukui K, Kamigaichi S.  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.
      Reece JS, Miller MJ, Arnold MA, Cannon TF, Waterhouse C, Cohn L, Delaplaine T.  Continuous Oxygen Monitoring of Mammalian Cell Growth on Space Shuttle Mission STS-93 with a Novel Radioluminescent Oxygen. Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology. 2003; 104(1): 1-11.

    ^ back to top

    Related Websites
  • Flight Systems Implementation: Space Tissue Loss
  • US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command
  • ^ back to top


    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.
    + View Larger Image

    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.