Shuttle Atlantis to launch with yeast

Jul 08, 2011

When NASA's final space shuttle mission launches today it will carry four astronauts and some unusual passengers – yeast cell growth experiments developed by Canadian researchers at the University of Toronto's Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research.

The Micro-4 project will study simple yeast cells to better understand human disease. The genetic makeup of a yeast cell is remarkably similar to that of a human cell, which makes it an ideal system for studying genetic defects and understanding how these defects may manifest in human disease. In two separate experiments – conducted at the International Station –
researchers will study the effect of microgravity on cell growth, and how different mutant genes might affect susceptibility to a microgravity situation.

"The results of these experiments may provide critical insight into which set of human genes are important and how these genes work together to help humans deal with extreme environments associated with space travel," says Brenda Andrews, researcher and director of the Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research "This information could inform future planned missions to Mars as well as longer-term settlement of moon and Mars-based colonies."

In the first experiment, yeast cells will be grown in petri dishes and kept in temperature-controlled chambers. To prevent cell growth, the chambers will be kept at 4o C until the shuttle has reached the space station. Once on the station, chamber temperature will be increased to 30o C, an optimal temperature for yeast cell growth. The cells will be allowed to grow for 48 hours after which they will be cooled back down and returned to Toronto for analysis. In the second experiment, 6000 different yeast cells, each identified by a special 'bar-code,' will be grown in liquid broth and the crew will transfer the to fresh liquid broth twice during the course of the mission. These experiments will allow the Toronto team to see how the space environment and the genetic background of the cell combine to impact and survival.

"Little is currently known about the effects of long-term zero gravity on biological systems. Through these experiments, we expect to get a huge amount of new information about how genetic background affects survival in low-gravity/low- radiation environments, issues that are relevant to people exposed to these environments," says Professor Corey Nislow, researcher and principal investigator at the Donnelly Centre for Biomedical Research.

The Micro-4 project is led by U of T professors Corey Nislow, Guri Giaever, Charles Boone and Brenda Andrews from the Donnelly Centre for Biomedical Research. The project is coordinated by Michael Costanzo, Project Leader in the Donnelly Centre and is supported by Ames and BioServe Space Technologies. Timothy Hammond of the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Durham, N.C., is the principal investigator.

The space shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to lift off today at approximately 11:36 a.m. from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Explore further: The source of the sky's X-ray glow

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Genetic 'atlas' of cells will pinpoint causes of disease

Jan 25, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists at the University of Toronto have discovered a way to map the interactions of genes within a cell, a significant breakthrough that promises to help researchers better understand the causes of disease, ...

University of Toronto scientists map entire yeast genome

Nov 26, 2007

University of Toronto scientists have devised a tool to help understand and predict the state of a cell by successfully mapping all 70,000 nucleosomes in yeast. Nucleosomes wrap DNA before it is transformed into proteins ...

NASA Send Cells Into Space

Apr 02, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA scientists are sending three fundamental life science experiments onboard space shuttle Discovery in hopes of better understanding exactly how spaceflight affects cell growth and how cells fight off ...

NASA to Study Seeds in Space to Understand Plant Growth

Feb 08, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA scientists hope to better understand exactly how and why plants grow differently in space in an experiment named, Tropi. Future astronauts may be able to grow plants as part of life support systems on ...

Recommended for you

The source of the sky's X-ray glow

15 hours ago

In findings that help astrophysicists understand our corner of the galaxy, an international research team has shown that the soft X-ray glow blanketing the sky comes from both inside and outside the solar system.

End dawns for Europe's space cargo delivery role

Jul 27, 2014

Europe will close an important chapter in its space flight history Tuesday, launching the fifth and final robot ship it had pledged for lifeline deliveries to the International Space Station.

Giant crater in Russia's far north sparks mystery

Jul 26, 2014

A vast crater discovered in a remote region of Siberia known to locals as "the end of the world" is causing a sensation in Russia, with a group of scientists being sent to investigate.

NASA Mars spacecraft prepare for close comet flyby

Jul 26, 2014

NASA is taking steps to protect its Mars orbiters, while preserving opportunities to gather valuable scientific data, as Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring heads toward a close flyby of Mars on Oct. 19.

Bacteria manipulate salt to build shelters to hibernate

Jul 25, 2014

For the first time, Spanish researchers have detected an unknown interaction between microorganisms and salt. When Escherichia coli cells are introduced into a droplet of salt water and is left to dry, b ...

How do we terraform Venus?

Jul 25, 2014

It might be possible to terraform Venus some day, when our technology gets good enough. The challenges for Venus are totally different than for Mars. How will we need to fix Venus?

User comments : 0