The Exomedicine Institute has a unique set of capabilities. Space is an unusual environment, and while the novelty of its characteristics is what offers the greatest potential for discovery, most researchers do not have the specialized expertise or the time to learn how to conduct successful research in microgravity. Drawing upon the research and experience of its members and collaborators, the Exomedicine Institute is able to pursue an interdisciplinary approach to its R&D. It can provide comprehensive support for payloads and missions from concept through design, development, (including pre-mission microgravity simulation) flight qualification, launch, analysis and completion of orbital experiments. It also has the engineering expertise, facilities and full suite of test equipment and capabilities for successful missions including a complete ISS ground technical support center that provides direct communication with astronauts to facilitate human tended experiments and problem mitigation.
Through its affiliate, Kentucky Space, EMI has access to numerous U.S. National Lab R&D facilities aboard the ISS and also launch/transportation services to space. The Kentucky Space CubeLab® experiment module provides standardized architectures that simplify and shrink the development cycle and cost for microgravity research and missions. Experiments can be designed for free-flying orbit, suborbital and ISS microgravity conditions.
Exomedicine Institute members will have access to bioreactors produced by Synthecon Incorporated, which not only provide excellent 3-D models and significantly enhance the results offered by other 3-D cell culture systems such as matrices, but also provide the highest fidelity simulation of space flight results on certain systems.
Exomedicine is the “study and exploration of medical solutions in the microgravity environment of space.” The purpose is to discover advancements in disease mitigation and health enhancement through biomedical investigations under microgravity conditions.Some identified areas of research focus include microbes and small organisms, cell cultures, tissue regeneration, protein crystallization, human cancer cells, diabetes, immunology, infectious diseases and vaccine development.
By acquiring a deeper understanding of the influences of microgravity on the dynamics of living systems, we may be able to solve some of today’s important medical challenges. Gravity is a fundamental force on earth that influences all biological systems at a molecular level. What happens to biological systems when the influence of gravity is modified or removed? We can’t remove gravity on earth, but as it turns out, when biomedical research is conducted in Space, in so-called microgravity environments, certain earthbound limitations disappear, new and different findings are made, and living organisms behave very differently. Already several research successes have been achieved in the National Laboratory on the International Space Station (ISS). Research In Space, Facilities on the International Space Station, Executive Editor, Deborah L Harm, Ph.D.
Biomedical R&D in Space is already yielding intriguing discoveries. Cells behave differently in Space. Cell cycle studies, genetic expression and other research on the International Space Station has provided valuable work into kidney disorders, cancer, salmonella, MRSA, among others.
The gravity environment on the ISS is approximately 0.000001 that of Earth. Exomedicine Synthesis Paper, Rita Briggs, Ph.D. Lockheed Martin Mission Services, NASA Ames Research Center. This allows exceptional flexibility to manipulate the growth or culture environment to overcome gravity driven limitations on Earth.
Nobel laureate Dr. Baruch S. Blumberg who won the Nobel prize as co-inventor of the Hepatitis B vaccine, which is one of the most widely used vaccines in the world, was a champion of space research in his lifetime. As Director of the Astrobiology Institute at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, he told his team of researchers that their projects should be focused not only on achieving a goal, “…but also on expecting the unexpected and assigning resources to pursue unexpected findings to new scientific, applied and commercial outcomes…” <ref> Space Biotech: Hindsight, Insight and Foresight, a presentation given by Lynn Harper, Lead Integrative Studies, Co-Chair Space Commercial Laboratory, NASA Ames Research Center, May 17, 2011, to the Exomedicine Workshop sponsored by Kentucky Space, LLC.
Microgravity represents a largely unexplored, untapped and exciting resource for pursuing new discoveries and potentially transformational benefits to human life on Earth.
Image by Mark Maxwell