Current Cellular and Molecular Research

Principal Investigator: Afshin Beheshti, Ph.D.

Research: miRNA Signature Detection and Countermeasures Against HZE Radiation Exposure for Tissue Degeneration

Institution: NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
Start date: Jan. 1, 2019
End date: Dec. 31, 2020
Grant Mechanism: Single PI grant
Study type: Ground study

NASA Risk Addressed: Degen/ CVD

Project: Risks associated with the increased exposure to space radiation are major concerns for space travel.  microRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNA molecules that function in gene regulation.  Dr. Beheshti proposed to use a comprehensive systems biology approach to identify the cellular pathways and a circulating miRNA signature associated with the cardiovascular system and muscles that are affected by radiation exposure and microgravity.  Once these are identified, Dr. Beheshti will delete and overexpress these miRNAs in different cell types to understand the impact of the deletion on exposure to radiation. Lastly, Dr. Beheshti will test a novel countermeasure technique to target the circulating miRNAs to possibly mitigate the effects of space radiation. This research may identify new pathways that are important for radiation resistance.

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Principal Investigator: Dawn Bowles, Ph.D.

Research: Gene Therapy Countermeasures For Detrimental Effects of Space Radiation

Institution: Duke University, Durham, NC
Start date: Jan. 1, 2019
End date: Dec. 31, 2020
Grant Mechanism: Single PI grant
Study type: Ground study

NASA Risk Addressed: Degen/ CVD

Project: Space travel exposes astronauts to unsafe levels of radiation, which can cause cancer, immune system diseases, and other diseases.  Dr. Bowles proposed to develop viral vector based gene therapy approaches to deliver genes that increase astronauts’ resistance to radiation.  The gene therapy could be administered to astronauts before space travel, and because viral vector effects are known to last for years, this would minimize the need for medications to be transported as cargo on space missions.

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Principal Investigator: Anushree Chatterjee, Ph.D.

Research: Nucleic Acid Therapy Platform for Real-Time Countermeasures During Spaceflight Missions

Institution: University of Colorado, Boulder, Boulder, Co.
Start date: Jan. 1, 2019
End date: Dec. 31, 2020
Grant Mechanism: Single PI grant
Study type: Ground study

NASA Risk Addressed: Degen/ CVD

Project: The increased radiation during long space exploration missions can damage DNA, and the products of damaged genes can have negative health effects. One way to prevent these effects is to specifically block damaged genes. Dr. Chatterjee plans to develop the Facile Accelerated Specific Therapeutic (FAST) pipeline, which will create the appropriate gene expression-blocking or increase based therapy within hours or days. The proposed research will test this technology in irradiated cells, with the goal of future use in spaceflight settings.

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Principal Investigator: Charles Chiu, M.D., Ph.D.

Research: In-flight metagenomic monitoring of infections and associated host responses in astronauts

Institution: University of California, San Francisco, Calif.
Start date: Oct. 1, 2017
End date: Sept. 30, 2019
Grant Mechanism: Program grant
Study type: Flight study

NASA Risk Addressed: Risk of Adverse Health Effects Due to Host-Microorganism Interactions

Problem Addressed: Astronauts will be susceptible to infections during long-duration spaceflight due to alterations in their immune systems as well as changes to the microbes in the space environment. This project builds a capability to track and identify the infectious agents in real time so that appropriate clinical treatments can be applied.

Major Aim of Project: To develop and implement routine onboard tools for monitoring astronaut health (infectious disease diagnosis by metagenomics and gene expression) and microbial tracking during spaceflight.

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Principal Investigator: George Mias, Ph.D.

Research: Intergrative Personalized Omics Profiling Next Steps: Detection and Classification of Deviations from Wellness

Institution: Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich.
Start date: Jan. 1, 2019
End date: Dec. 31, 2020
Grant Mechanism: Single PI grant
Study type: Ground study

NASA Risk Addressed: Medical

Project: Precision medicine uses state-of-the-art technologies to detect changes in an individual’s health parameters that can be used to diagnose, treat, and even prevent disease. Dr. Mias proposes developing new computational and statistical methods to monitor, analyze, and annotate individual health information (including molecular and physiological measurements) and detect changes that could reflect or predict disease. Personalized monitoring of astronauts is already being performed, and the proposed analytical methods could improve NASA’s ability for timely early detection of diseases, and potentially adverse health events, during deep space missions.

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Principal Investigator: Kasthuri Venkateswaran, Ph.D.

Research: Omics in space: Technology development for omics instrumentations and biomolecule measurements

Institution: Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Start date: Oct. 1, 2017
End date: Sept. 30, 2019
Grant Mechanism: Single PI grant
Study type: Flight study

NASA Risk Addressed: Risk of Adverse Health Effects Due to Host-Microorganism Interactions, Risk of Adverse Health Event Due to Altered Immune Response

Project: Nucleic acids extracted from astronauts and their habitat can be sequenced to detect specific health-related biomarkers and microbes. The Omics In Space (OIS) project will use this method to measure microbes relevant to human health during spaceflight. OIS proposes developing instrumentation for the automated extraction of nucleic acids from samples during spaceflight, which will be combined with existing next-generation sequencing instrumentation on the International Space Station. The data generated will be used to analyze changes in microbial communities during spaceflight, which will guide better microbial management planning for future space flights.

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