Cardiovascular Innovation Institute team makes shuttle experiments possible
August 17th, 2007
Without an invention by Cardiovascular Innovation Institute scientific director Stuart Williams and CII bioengineer Jay Hoying, it would be more difficult to conduct scientific experiments in space — including their own.
“Shuttle experiments are challenging because they have to be small, lightweight and fully automated,” Hoying said.
That’s why the team, which joined CII in July, came up with new designs for a key piece of equipment — called a bioreactor — in the early 1990s that automates biological experiments, monitoring key factors such as temperature that are necessary for cell growth, without the intervention of the shuttle’s crew. Constructed primarily of plastics, the equipment is lightweight and small — about the size of a dictionary. This design minimizes the expense associated with transporting the experiment into space and allows more experiments to be flown on each mission. The equipment has been used on more than 15 shuttle missions.
On the current Endeavor flight to the International Space Station, the two are testing whether adult stem cells derived from fat tissues can help speed wound repair — both in space and on earth. Studies have shown that space flight diminishes the wound repair process, most likely as a result of factors such as radiation, exposure to low gravity and other sources of physical stress.
“NASA’s plans for a mission to Mars and permanent space stations mean that we need to solve this problem. At the same time, we gain a better understanding of how cells react to these stresses, which helps us find solutions to health problems here on Earth,” Williams said.
CII is a partnership between the University of Louisville and Jewish Hospital to seeks to improve care for patients with advanced heart disease.