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CASIS Payloads Berthed With the International Space Station Through SpaceX Dragon Capsule

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., April 21, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) is proud to announce its research payloads berthed with the International Space Station (ISS) on Sunday, April 20. Space Exploration Technologies Corporation's (SpaceX) Dragon capsule successfully berthed with the ISS, marking the completion of its launch to resupply the ISS with cargo and research. CASIS is tasked with managing and promoting research onboard the ISS U.S. National Laboratory.  

Research onboard the SpaceX Dragon capsule included a range of experiments from life sciences. This is the second mission that has been responsible for launching CASIS-sponsored investigations to the ISS. In January, Orbital Sciences Corporation's Cygnus capsule sent the first CASIS-sponsored investigations to the ISS. Below is an overview of the major payloads now onboard the ISS sponsored by CASIS:

Crystalline Monoclonal Antibody
Paul Reichert, Merck Research Laboratories
Commercial investigator Merck will focus on the protein crystal growth of a human monoclonal antibody developed by its research labs that is currently undergoing clinical trials for treatment of an immunological disease. High quality crystalline suspensions of the antibodies in microgravity will aid in not only structure determination but also pharmaceutical applications, such as drug delivery and purification/storage of the therapeutic substance.

IPPase Crystal Growth in Microgravity
Dr. Joseph Ng, iXpressGenes, Inc.
This investigation will produce protein crystals large enough for a specific type of crystallography that can show very intricate details of protein structure. The specific enzyme being studied is involved in a variety of cell functions, including protein production — but a very detailed part of how this enzyme works is unknown. Producing crystals that allow analysis of very small and detailed structural features will not only help researchers understand this protein's function but also determine best practices for studies of other proteins at this level of detail. 

Crystallization of Medically Relevant Proteins Using Microgravity
Dr. Sergey Korolev, St. Louis Medical Center
Research on this investigation focuses on improving crystals of two medically important proteins. These two proteins have multiple functions within cells, and results could therefore assist in the development of various medical interventions, from anticoagulant therapies to drug treatments for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, muscular dystrophy and Parkinson's disease.

Exploiting On-Orbit Crystal Properties for Structural Studies of Medically and Economically Important Targets
Dr. Edward Snell, SUNY Buffalo
This research focuses on growing crystals of four proteins associated with human disease. These proteins crystallize on Earth but not with sufficient quality and uniformity to determine their structures. Larger, better-organized crystals of these specific proteins could have a significant impact on drug development for Parkinson's disease, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, ethylmalonic aciduri and cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma.

Crystallization of Huntingtin Exon 1 Using Microgravity
Dr. Pamela Bjorkman, California Institute of Technology
This research focuses huntingtin, the protein responsible for Huntington's disease. The structure of this protein remains unknown. Procuring a high-resolution structure would have significant scientific and medical impact in understanding the structural basis for neural toxicity and developing treatments for Huntington's disease and other related disorders, such as spinocerebellar ataxia.

Crystallization of Human Membrane ABC Proteins in Microgravity
Dr. Stephen Aller, University of Alabama-Birmingham
This investigation focuses on determining the structure of human membrane proteins, which could accelerate the commercialization of next-generation drugs to treat AIDS-related dementia, high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, cystic fibrosis and multi-drug resistance as it relates to cancer.

Molecular Biology of Plant Development in the Spaceflight Environment
Dr. Anna-Lisa Paul, University of Florida
This research focuses on the growth and development of Arabidopsis thaliana seedlings in the spaceflight environment. Researchers seek to identify the genes involved in plant root morphology and adaptive physiology; specifically, how a root knows in which direction to grow when gravity is absent. Results will expand on previous ISS research in this area and inform the study of specific molecular pathways involved in plant adaptive physiology on Earth.

Many of the experiments delivered by the SpaceX Dragon capsule come from the first CASIS-sponsored RFP, "Advancing Protein Crystallization in Microgravity." CASIS believes that through this research, potential therapies can be developed and a baseline for future protein crystal growth experimentation will be established. Additionally, a joint project from NASA, CASIS and the National Institute of Health is onboard, "T-Cell Activation in Aging," in which Dr. Millie Hughes-Fulford will attempt to better understand and develop treatments for disorders of immune suppression by discovering the molecular basis of T-cell suppression in spaceflight.

"Today signifies yet another historic moment for CASIS and our launch partner, SpaceX," said President and Executive Director Gregory H. Johnson. "The research that is now on the ISS has the potential to unlock secrets that could create therapies to improve human health and performance. Additionally, this launch culminates our first official increment period of Advancing Research Knowledge 1. This initial launch period has been instrumental in the further development of CASIS and we look forward to sending additional exciting and innovative research capable of enhancing science in space, for life on Earth."

To learn more about the research destined for the ISS during the first official launch increment period for CASIS, Advancing Research Knowledge 1 (ARK1), please visit: ark1.iss-casis.org

About CASIS: The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) was selected by NASA in July 2011 to maximize use of the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory through 2020. CASIS is dedicated to supporting and accelerating innovations and new discoveries that will enhance the health and wellbeing of people and our planet. For more information, visit www.iss-casis.org.

About the ISS National Laboratory: In 2005, Congress designated the U.S. portion of the International Space Station as the nation's newest national laboratory to maximize its use for improving life on Earth, promoting collaboration among diverse users, and advancing STEM education. This unique laboratory environment is available for use by other U.S. government agencies and by academic and private institutions, providing access to the permanent microgravity setting, vantage point in low Earth orbit, and varied environments of space.

Media Contact: Patrick O'Neill
(321) 480-1054
PONeill@iss-casis.org

SOURCE Center for the Advancement of Science in Space

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