Among other recommendations for the space station, the report endorsed a clearly defined and prioritized integrated life and physical sciences research portfolio and associated objectives. This report detailed seven major disciplines for focus by station research, including plant and microbial biology and animal and human biology.
Life science research already conducted aboard the space station includes studies of protein crystals, pharmaceutical treatments and model organisms like plants and fish. Model organisms have characteristics that allow them to easily be maintained, reproduced and studied in a laboratory and have a genetic makeup that is relatively well-documented and well-understood by scientists. Upcoming research in the area of -omics, the study of the entire complement of biomolecules like proteins or genes, and in rodent research will further enable humans to carry out long-term space exploration and support a greater understanding of how gravity shapes fundamental biological processes.
In response to the report, "we identified new facilities that we needed, like new rodent and plant habitats, and starting this year, those facilities are going to keep coming online one-by-one, and each will be used on every flight over and over on the space station for the next 10 years," said Julie Robinson, Ph.D., chief program scientist for the International Space Station.
Protein crystals have been studied in microgravity throughout the space station's assembly, and investigations using protein crystals continue today. High quality crystals grown on the space station are used to determine protein structure. This helps researchers understand better protein the three-dimensional structure of proteins and may lead to designing new therapeutics for diseases. In fact, a previous study of protein
|Contact: Laura Niles|
NASA/Johnson Space Center