Phase contrast optical microscopy images of Nano Antioxidants samples after at normal gravity and weightlessness.
The Nano Antioxidants experiment looks for novel ways to stimulate cells in the battle against muscle loss, heart failure, diabetes or Parkinson’s disease. Going down to the genetic level, scientists hope to find a tailored solution that will stop the detrimental effects of long stays in Earth orbit and in deep space.
The experiment lifted off on SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft from Cape Canaveral, in the United States, for the International Space Station. Living cells and ceramic particles were placed for six days in the Kubik incubator.
The samples travel cozy and warm, stored at a temperature of about 30°C, to meet the stresses of life in space. Weightlessness, artificial gravity and radiation will impact the culture, and researchers on Earth are eager to know how.
“The frozen samples splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on the Dragon spacecraft, and after comparing the samples we saw a marked effect in the cells treated with ceramic nanoparticles,” says Gianni Ciofani from the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia in Italy. “The effect we observed seems to imply that nanoparticles work better and longer than traditional antioxidants such as vitamins.”
“The experiment setup resulted in excellent samples to analyse using state-of-the art RNA sequencing,” continues Gianni. “Conducting space research is nothing like traditional lab work, as we have less samples, we cannot do the work ourselves and we have to work around deadlines such as launch days, landing and storing the samples, it is challenging but thrilling research!” The team even found ways to improve and simplify the process for future studies.