ABSTRACT: Rapid DNA sequencing and analysis has been a long-sought goal in remote research and point-of-care medicine. In microgravity, DNA sequencing can facilitate novel astrobiological research and close monitoring of crew health, but spaceflight places stringent restrictions on the mass and volume of instruments, crew operation time, and instrument functionality. The recent emergence of portable, nanopore-based tools with streamlined sample preparation protocols finally enables DNA sequencing on missions in microgravity. As a first step toward sequencing in space and aboard the International Space Station (ISS), we tested the Oxford Nanopore Technologies MinION during a parabolic flight to understand the effects of variable gravity on the instrument and data. In a successful proof-of-principle experiment, we found that the instrument generated DNA reads over the course of the flight, including the first ever sequenced in microgravity, and additional reads measured after the flight concluded its parabolas. Here we detail modifications to the sample-loading procedures to facilitate nanopore sequencing aboard the ISS and in other microgravity environments. We also evaluate existing analysis methods and outline two new approaches, the first based on a wave-fingerprint method and the second on entropy signal mapping. Computationally light analysis methods offer the potential for in situ species identification, but are limited by the error profiles (stays, skips, and mismatches) of older nanopore data. Higher accuracies attainable with modified sample processing methods and the latest version of flow cells will further enable the use of nanopore sequencers for diagnostics and research in space.
Project description:With extended stays aboard the International Space Station (ISS) becoming commonplace, there is a need to better understand the effects of microgravity on cardiac function. We utilized human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (hiPSC-CMs) to study the effects of microgravity on cell-level cardiac function and gene expression. The hiPSC-CMs were cultured aboard the ISS for 5.5 weeks and their gene expression, structure, and functions were compared to ground control hiPSC-CMs. Exposure to microgravity on the ISS caused alterations in hiPSC-CM calcium handling. RNA-sequencing analysis demonstrated 2,635 genes were differentially expressed among flight, post-flight, and ground control samples, including genes involved in mitochondrial metabolism. This study represents the first use of hiPSCs to model the effects of spaceflight on human cardiomyocyte structure and function. Overall design: Examination of the effect of microgravity exposure on mRNA expression.
Project description:Secondary lymphoid organs are critical for regulating acquired immune responses. The aim of this study was to characterize the impact of spaceflight on secondary lymphoid organs at the molecular level. We analysed the spleens and lymph nodes from mice flown aboard the International Space Station (ISS) in orbit for 35 days, as part of a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency mission. During flight, half of the mice were exposed to 1 g by centrifuging in the ISS, to provide information regarding the effect of microgravity and 1 g exposure during spaceflight. Whole-transcript cDNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) analysis of the spleen suggested that erythrocyte-related genes regulated by the transcription factor GATA1 were significantly down-regulated in ISS-flown vs. ground control mice. GATA1 and Tal1 (regulators of erythropoiesis) mRNA expression was consistently reduced by approximately half. These reductions were not completely alleviated by 1 g exposure in the ISS, suggesting that the combined effect of space environments aside from microgravity could down-regulate gene expression in the spleen. Additionally, plasma immunoglobulin concentrations were slightly altered in ISS-flown mice. Overall, our data suggest that spaceflight might disturb the homeostatic gene expression of the spleen through a combination of microgravity and other environmental changes.
Project description:We evaluated the performance of the MinION DNA sequencer in-flight on the International Space Station (ISS), and benchmarked its performance off-Earth against the MinION, Illumina MiSeq, and PacBio RS II sequencing platforms in terrestrial laboratories. Samples contained equimolar mixtures of genomic DNA from lambda bacteriophage, Escherichia coli (strain K12, MG1655) and Mus musculus (female BALB/c mouse). Nine sequencing runs were performed aboard the ISS over a 6-month period, yielding a total of 276,882 reads with no apparent decrease in performance over time. From sequence data collected aboard the ISS, we constructed directed assemblies of the ~4.6 Mb E. coli genome, ~48.5 kb lambda genome, and a representative M. musculus sequence (the ~16.3 kb mitochondrial genome), at 100%, 100%, and 96.7% consensus pairwise identity, respectively; de novo assembly of the E. coli genome from raw reads yielded a single contig comprising 99.9% of the genome at 98.6% consensus pairwise identity. Simulated real-time analyses of in-flight sequence data using an automated bioinformatic pipeline and laptop-based genomic assembly demonstrated the feasibility of sequencing analysis and microbial identification aboard the ISS. These findings illustrate the potential for sequencing applications including disease diagnosis, environmental monitoring, and elucidating the molecular basis for how organisms respond to spaceflight.
Project description:The International Space Station (ISS) is a complex built environment physically isolated from Earth. Assessing the interplay between the microbial community of the ISS and its crew is important for preventing biomedical and structural complications for long term human spaceflight missions. In this study, we describe one crewmember's microbial profile from body swabs of mouth, nose, ear, skin and saliva that were collected at eight different time points pre-, during and post-flight. Additionally, environmental surface samples from eight different habitable locations in the ISS were collected from two flights. Environmental samples from one flight were collected by the crewmember and samples from the next flight were collected after the crewmember departed. The microbial composition in both environment and crewmember samples was measured using shotgun metagenomic sequencing and processed using the Livermore Metagenomics Analysis Toolkit. Ordination of sample to sample distances showed that of the eight crew body sites analyzed, skin, nostril, and ear samples are more similar in microbial composition to the ISS surfaces than mouth and saliva samples; and that the microbial composition of the crewmember's skin samples are more closely related to the ISS surface samples collected by the crewmember on the same flight than ISS surface samples collected by other crewmembers on different flights. In these collections, species alpha diversity in saliva samples appears to decrease during flight and rebound after returning to Earth. This is the first study to compare the ISS microbiome to a crewmember's microbiome via shotgun metagenomic sequencing. We observed that the microbiome of the surfaces inside the ISS resemble those of the crew's skin. These data support future crew and ISS microbial surveillance efforts and the design of preventive measures to maintain crew habitat onboard spacecraft destined for long term space travel.
Project description:Background. While significant attention has been paid to the potential risk of pathogenic microbes aboard crewed spacecraft, the non-pathogenic microbes in these habitats have received less consideration. Preliminary work has demonstrated that the interior of the International Space Station (ISS) has a microbial community resembling those of built environments on Earth. Here we report the results of sending 48 bacterial strains, collected from built environments on Earth, for a growth experiment on the ISS. This project was a component of Project MERCCURI (Microbial Ecology Research Combining Citizen and University Researchers on ISS). Results. Of the 48 strains sent to the ISS, 45 of them showed similar growth in space and on Earth using a relative growth measurement adapted for microgravity. The vast majority of species tested in this experiment have also been found in culture-independent surveys of the ISS. Only one bacterial strain showed significantly different growth in space. Bacillus safensis JPL-MERTA-8-2 grew 60% better in space than on Earth. Conclusions. The majority of bacteria tested were not affected by conditions aboard the ISS in this experiment (e.g., microgravity, cosmic radiation). Further work on Bacillus safensis could lead to interesting insights on why this strain grew so much better in space.
Project description:Growing stem cells on Earth is very challenging and limited to a few population doublings. The standard two-dimensional (2D) culture environment is an unnatural condition for cell growth. Therefore, culturing stem cells aboard the International Space Station (ISS) under a microgravity environment may provide a more natural three-dimensional environment for stem cell expansion and organ development. In this study, human-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) grown in space were evaluated to determine their potential use for future clinical applications on Earth and during long-term spaceflight. MSCs were flown in Plate Habitats for transportation to the ISS. The MSCs were imaged every 24-48?h and harvested at 7 and 14 days. Conditioned media samples were frozen at -80?°C and cells were either cryopreserved in 5% dimethyl sulfoxide, RNAprotect, or paraformaldehyde. After return to Earth, MSCs were characterized to establish their identity and cell cycle status. In addition, cell proliferation, differentiation, cytokines, and growth factors' secretion were assessed. To evaluate the risk of malignant transformation, the space-grown MSCs were subjected to chromosomal, DNA damage, and tumorigenicity assays. We found that microgravity had significant impact on the MSC capacity to secrete cytokines and growth factors. They appeared to be more potent in terms of immunosuppressive capacity compared to their identical ground control. Chromosomal, DNA damage, and tumorigenicity assays showed no evidence of malignant transformation. Therefore, it is feasible and potentially safe to grow MSCs aboard the ISS for potential future clinical applications.
Project description:The MinION sequencer has made in situ sequencing feasible in remote locations. Following our initial demonstration of its high performance off planet with Earth-prepared samples, we developed and tested an end-to-end, sample-to-sequencer process that could be conducted entirely aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Initial experiments demonstrated the process with a microbial mock community standard. The DNA was successfully amplified, primers were degraded, and libraries prepared and sequenced. The median percent identities for both datasets were 84%, as assessed from alignment of the mock community. The ability to correctly identify the organisms in the mock community standard was comparable for the sequencing data obtained in flight and on the ground. To validate the process on microbes collected from and cultured aboard the ISS, bacterial cells were selected from a NASA Environmental Health Systems Surface Sample Kit contact slide. The locations of bacterial colonies chosen for identification were labeled, and a small number of cells were directly added as input into the sequencing workflow. Prepared DNA was sequenced, and the data were downlinked to Earth. Return of the contact slide to the ground allowed for standard laboratory processing for bacterial identification. The identifications obtained aboard the ISS, Staphylococcus hominis and Staphylococcus capitis, matched those determined on the ground down to the species level. This marks the first ever identification of microbes entirely off Earth, and this validated process could be used for in-flight microbial identification, diagnosis of infectious disease in a crewmember, and as a research platform for investigators around the world.
Project description:The distance and duration of human spaceflight missions is set to markedly increase over the coming decade as we prepare to send astronauts to Mars. However, the health impact of long-term exposure to cosmic radiation and microgravity is not fully understood. In order to identify the molecular mechanisms underpinning the effects of space travel on human health, we must develop the capacity to monitor changes in gene expression and DNA integrity in space. Here, we report successful implementation of three molecular biology procedures on board the International Space Station (ISS) using a miniaturized thermal cycler system and C. elegans as a model organism: first, DNA extraction-the initial step for any type of DNA analysis; second, reverse transcription of RNA to generate complementary DNA (cDNA); and third, the subsequent semi-quantitative PCR amplification of cDNA to analyze gene expression changes in space. These molecular procedures represent a significant expansion of the budding molecular biology capabilities of the ISS and will permit more complex analyses of space-induced genetic changes during spaceflight missions aboard the ISS and beyond.
Project description:Sleep deprivation and fatigue are common subjective complaints among astronauts. Previous studies of sleep and hypnotic drug use in space have been limited to post-flight subjective survey data or in-flight objective data collection from a small number of crew members. We aimed to characterise representative sleep patterns of astronauts on both short-duration and long-duration spaceflight missions.For this observational study, we recruited crew members assigned to Space Transportation System shuttle flights with in-flight experiments between July 12, 2001, and July 21, 2011, or assigned to International Space Station (ISS) expeditions between Sept 18, 2006, and March 16, 2011. We assessed sleep-wake timing objectively via wrist actigraphy, and subjective sleep characteristics and hypnotic drug use via daily logs, in-flight and during Earth-based data-collection intervals: for 2 weeks scheduled about 3 months before launch, 11 days before launch until launch day, and for 7 days upon return to Earth.We collected data from 64 astronauts on 80 space shuttle missions (26 flights, 1063 in-flight days) and 21 astronauts on 13 ISS missions (3248 in-flight days), with ground-based data from all astronauts (4014 days). Crew members attempted and obtained significantly less sleep per night as estimated by actigraphy during space shuttle missions (7·35 h [SD 0·47] attempted, 5·96 h [0·56] obtained), in the 11 days before spaceflight (7·35 h [0·51], 6·04 h [0·72]), and about 3 months before spaceflight (7·40 h [0·59], 6·29 h [0·67]) compared with the first week post-mission (8·01 h [0·78], 6·74 h [0·91]; p<0·0001 for both measures). Crew members on ISS missions obtained significantly less sleep during spaceflight (6·09 h [0·67]), in the 11 days before spaceflight (5·86 h [0·94]), and during the 2-week interval scheduled about 3 months before spaceflight (6·41 h [SD 0·65]) compared with in the first week post-mission (6·95 h [1·04]; p<0·0001). 61 (78%) of 78 shuttle-mission crew members reported taking a dose of sleep-promoting drug on 500 (52%) of 963 nights; 12 (75%) of 16 ISS crew members reported using sleep-promoting drugs.Sleep deficiency in astronauts was prevalent not only during space shuttle and ISS missions, but also throughout a 3 month preflight training interval. Despite chronic sleep curtailment, use of sleep-promoting drugs was pervasive during spaceflight. Because chronic sleep loss leads to performance decrements, our findings emphasise the need for development of effective countermeasures to promote sleep.The National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Project description:The International Space Station (ISS) is a unique habitat for humans and microorganisms. Here, we report the results of the ISS experiment EXTREMOPHILES, including the analysis of microbial communities from several areas aboard at three time points. We assess microbial diversity, distribution, functional capacity and resistance profile using a combination of cultivation-independent analyses (amplicon and shot-gun sequencing) and cultivation-dependent analyses (physiological and genetic characterization of microbial isolates, antibiotic resistance tests, co-incubation experiments). We show that the ISS microbial communities are highly similar to those present in ground-based confined indoor environments and are subject to fluctuations, although a core microbiome persists over time and locations. The genomic and physiological features selected by ISS conditions do not appear to be directly relevant to human health, although adaptations towards biofilm formation and surface interactions were observed. Our results do not raise direct reason for concern with respect to crew health, but indicate a potential threat towards material integrity in moist areas.