Following a more than three-month delay due to technical problems, NASA's space shuttle Discovery will make its final flight Feb. 24 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida carrying two University of Colorado Boulder-built biomedical payload devices.
One of the experiments is designed to help scientists better understand changes in the virulence of bacteria in the low gravity of space as a way to help researchers prevent or control infectious diseases. The second is a cell cultivation experiment in a tropical plant known to produce nuts that could be used to make biofuels, said Louis Stodieck, director of BioServe Space Technologies in CU-Boulder's aerospace engineering sciences department.
Both experiments will be carried aboard Discovery in sets of specially designed fluid-processing cylinders built by BioServe known as GAPs, said Stodieck, The bacteria experiment will target how microgravity affects the growth of bacteria, in this case Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, also known as MRSA.
The GAPs will ride inside BioServe's Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus, an automated, suitcase-sized device developed at CU-Boulder that has been launched on more than 20 NASA space shuttle missions, with two of the CGBA devices now on the International Space Station. BioServe is providing the hardware, integration and operations support for all Discovery GAP experiments.
Astronauts will control the individual GAP experiments using hand cranks to trigger and then later terminate cell growth via fluid mixing, said Stodieck. The samples will remain on the space station until the next shuttle mission slated to launch at the end of February, at which time they will be returned to Earth for further study.
The bacterial experiment is sponsored by Astrogenetix Inc. headquartered in Austin, Texas, and designed by researchers at the Durham VA Medical Center in North Carolina. MRSA is a growing problem in hosp
|Contact: Louis Stodieck|
University of Colorado at Boulder