Colorado set to fly biomedical experiments on September shuttle flight

University of Colorado at Boulder researchers will test the effects of low gravity on two biomedical experiments aboard the upcoming flight of NASAs space shuttle Atlantis, now slated for liftoff Sept. 8 from Cape Kennedy, Fla. to the International Space Station.

One experiment will study the effects of spaceflight on the neural development in various larval stages of the common fruit fly, which should provide scientists with new insight on how gravity affects nerve growth and development. The experiment, which is being flown for Yale University and NASA Ames Research Center scientists by the CU-headquartered BioServe Space Technologies Center, also should provide a better understanding of the nervous system and its connections to muscle fibers.

Co-sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, the experiment will be flown in a device developed by BioServe known as the Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus, or CGBA, said BioServe Director Louis Stodieck. Evolving versions of the suitcase-sized CGBA have supported dozens of agricultural, biomedical and biotechnology experiments in thousands of customized test tubes on NASA shuttle missions in the past decade.

The seven Atlantis crew members will spend a week docked to the space station, unloading more than a ton of equipment and supplies from the shuttle and from a docked Russian cargo craft. BioServes experiments will return to Earth on Atlantis on Sept. 19.

In the fruit fly experiment, larvae in differing stages of development will be placed inside petri dishes in the CGBA modules. Fluorescent genes known as "reporter genes" will be injected into the larvae prior to flight, making their nervous systems glow, said Stodieck, also an associate research professor in the aerospace engineering department. "When these larvae are put under a microscope, their entire neural systems light up."

The CGBA will keep the fly larvae at 53 degrees Fahrenheit during t

Contact: Louis Stodieck
Louis Stodieck
University of Colorado at Boulder

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