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CERISE, JAXA's new life science experiment, which uses C. elegans as a model specimen, to examine genes involved in mechanisms of muscle mass increase / loss, began onboard Kibo

Last Updated: November 24, 2009

* Dates and times are given in Japan Standard Time (JST)

CERISE*1, an experiment that investigates effects of microgravity on nematode C. elegans, began onboard Kibo using the Cell Biology Experiment Facility (CBEF).

*1 RNA interference and protein phosphorylation in space environment using the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans
(Principal Investigator: Atsushi Higashitani, Tohoku University, Sendai)


The CERISE experiment began onboard Kibo at 0:24 a.m. November 20, 2009.

This experiment focuses on whether RNA interference (RNAi) that silences specific gene expression on the ground would show the same mechanism in space. CERISEalso investigates how the mechanism of protein phosphorylation that acts as a switch for activating or deactivating protein activities in living organism, will be altered under microgravity. Furthermore, the experiment focuses on mechanism of muscle atrophy that Professor Higashitani have found in the experiments performed on the past spaceflights, using C. elegans*2 as a model specimen.

RNA interference (RNAi) is noted as a useful technique for silencing specific gene expression with double-stranded RNA (dsRNA). RNAi is widely applied to eukaryotes (an organism whose cells contain cellular nucleus: for example animals, plants and fungi) as one of the methods of antiviral mechanism and reverse genetics. The RNAi technique is expected to be applied in the future life science experiments in space, therefore, the CERISE team tries to verify the effectiveness of RNAi in space.

In this experiment, nematode larvae will be grown onboard the ISS. At some points during growing process of the nematodes from larvae through adults, the nematodes will be collected as samples. All of the collected samples will be frozen to be returned to the ground on February 2010 aboard the space shuttle. Using the returned samples, a post-flight analysis will be conducted for examining the effectiveness of RNAi, and activities of the genes and proteins.

In parallel with this experiment, control experiments under an artificial 1G condition are scheduled to be conducted on orbit using the centrifuge equipped in the 1G compartment of the Cell Biology Experiment Facility (CBEF).

CERISE experiment will continue until November 27, 2009.

*2 C. elegans is a eukaryotic organism with transparent body, which is about 1 mm in length. It is widely used as a model specimen for experiments in development biology.


Comments from the Principal Investigator, Professor Higashitani

Staff and team members of the CERISE project traveled to NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC) several weeks prior to the launch of the space shuttle Atlantis in order to prepare and pack the nematode larvae and incubation bags. The nematode larvae were launched to the ISS aboard Atlantis on November 16, 2009. Aboard the ISS, the nematode larvae were transferred to Kibo followed by feeding began on November 19. The experiment has finally begun. I can not find any words to express my feeling now.

*All times are Japan Standard Time (JST)

 
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