Microgravity research may provide an opportunity to identify novel targets for vaccine development and the Nickerson team, in collaboration with Roy Curtiss, director of the Biodesign Institute's Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology has been working toward this goal. Based on previous findings, the scientists hypothesized that results from microgravity experiments might be used to facilitate vaccine development on Earth.
In a recent spaceflight experiment aboard space shuttle mission STS-135, the team flew a genetically modified Salmonella-based anti-pneumoccal vaccine that was developed in the Curtiss lab. By understanding the effect of microgravity culture on the gene expression and immunogenicity of the vaccine strain, their goal is to genetically modify the strain back on Earth to enhance its ability to confer a protective immune response against pneumococcal pneumonia.
"Recognizing that the spaceflight environment imparts a unique signal capable of modifying Salmonella virulence, we will use this same principle in an effort to enhance the protective immune response of the recombinant attenuated Salmonella vaccine strain," Nickerson says.
Nickerson's space-based microgravity experiments are carried out in conjunction with simultaneous Earth-based controls housed in the same hardware as those in orbit, to compare the behavior of bacterial cells under normal Earth gravity. Additional information is also provided using Earth-based cell cultures which are subjected to a kind of simulated microgravity, produced by culturing cells in a rotating wall vessel bioreactor (RWV), a device designed by NASA engine
|Contact: Joe Caspermeyer|
Arizona State University