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International space station plays host to innovative infectious disease research
Date:2/19/2013

in a rotating wall vessel bioreactor (RWV), a device designed by NASA engineers to replicate aspects of cell culture in the spaceflight environment.

Back at ASU, RWV reactor experiments were conducted by Nickerson and her team to help confirm that Hfq plays a central regulatory role in the Salmonella response to spaceflight conditions. Nickerson has also used this RWV technology to grow three dimensional (3-D) cell culture models that mimic key aspects of the structure and function of tissues in the body. These 3-D models are being used in the Nickerson lab as human surrogates to provide novel insight into the infectious disease process not obtainable by conventional approaches and for drug/therapeutic testing and development for treatment and prevention.

Nickerson also focuses research efforts on determining the entire repertoire of environmental factors that may influence bacterial response to spaceflight culture. For example, she found that the ion concentration in the cell culture media played a key role in the resulting effect of spaceflight on Salmonella virulence. Using the RWV, she was able to identify specific salts that may be responsible for this effect.

Nickerson's long list of firsts (first study to examine the effect of spaceflight on the virulence of a pathogen, first to obtain the entire gene expression response of a bacterium to spaceflight, first to profile the infection process in human cells in spaceflight, first identification of a spaceflight-responsive global gene regulator acting across bacterial species), will soon be augmented with a new experiment, that will be flown on SpaceX Dragon slated for the ISS later this year. Nicknamed PHOENIX, the project will mark the first time a whole, living organismin this case a nematodewill be infected with a pathogen and simultaneously monitored in real time during the infection process under microgravity conditions.

This and future studies aboard
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Contact: Joseph Caspermeyer
Joseph.Caspermeyer@asu.edu
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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