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Microgravity Cell Culture Systems and Bioreactors: Current Status and Future Developments

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The International Space Station (ISS) offers remarkable opportunities for scientists to carry out experiments. However, the schedule for astronauts on board is tight, leaving not much time for science. This is one reason why the currently developed space hardwares such as cell culture systems and bioreactors have to demonstrate high levels of automation that save precious crew time. Life-science hardware for space applications has to provide the optimal conditions for biological samples and to ensure proper functionality under microgravity conditions. Furthermore, the hardware has to pass the stringent safety requirements for manned space flights. Before space life-science hardware is ready for the flight, numerous test runs have to be performed to verify its flawless functionality and safety. In this chapter we introduce state-of-the-art instruments as examples of currently used cell culture hardware for space applications.

The “PADIAC” blood cell culture chamber was used recently in space to further investigate the behavior of T-lymphocytes to microgravity. The experiences with the “PADIAC” hardware combined with one of our previous studies such as “SACESTRE” are currently being used to develop and build a new piece of space hardware called “YEAST BIOREACTOR”. This instrument will allow yeast cultivation during an extended period of time as well as the exposure of samples periodically to other stressors in addition to microgravity. An analytical tool called “OoClamp” is also introduced to enable the measurement of the electrical properties of living cells under microgravity conditions. This tool is intended as an integrated part of future bioreactors for the on-site verification of the health status of cells, for example. Such a system would be ideal for life-science experiments in space because, without having to bring back the cells, substantial data on cellular processes could be gathered in space.
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Keywords: Automation; biotechnology; cell culture systems; lab-on-a-chip

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2013

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  • Current Biotechnology is an international peer-reviewed journal, which publishes expert research, reviews and thematic issues in all core areas of biotechnology including basic and applied research. Topics covered include, molecular engineering of nucleic acids and proteins; genomics and bioinformatics, molecular therapy; imaging technology and large scale biology; medical biotechnology, regenerative medicine, industrial biotechnology, biochemical engineering/bioprocess engineering, nano-biotechnology, bio-nanotechnology, analytical biotechnology; food and agricultural biotechnology; environmental biotechnology.
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