Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency:JAXA
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Selected "Prioritized Research Proposals"

Research field Life science
Title Transcriptome analysis and germ cell development analysis of mice in the space
Principal Investigator Satoru Takahashi MD. PhD., Professor, the University of Tsukuba
Abstract Alterations of gene expression pattern in each organ and effect to the development of germ cell of mice under long stay in the space will be analyzed. Adult male mice (8 weeks old) will be maintained in the ISS about 90 days by using previously or newly generated farming rack. After recovered these mice on the ground, microarray analysis will be performed about each organ to examine alteration of gene expression in the space. Specific modification of DNA will be also analyzed. In addition, sperms will be isolated from the mice and do in vitro fertilization and generate offspring. These offspring will be analyzed about mutation of the genome and epigenetic marker patterns to identify specific alteration of the genome in the space.

Research field Space medicine
Title Multi-omics analysis of human-microbial metabolic cross-talk in the space ecosystem
Principal Investigator Hiroshi Ohno M.D., Ph.D, Team Leader, Research Center for Allergy and Immunology, RIKEN
Abstract Space environment, characterized with microgravity, isolated/closed system and space radiation, is related to physiologic risks to human body such as decreasing bone mass, muscle atrophy, sleep disorders and immune dysfunction; hence, similarities with aging has also been pointed out. In addition, impact of emerging functional space diet on these physical conditions is unknown. In this proposal, we aim to understand the inter-organismal metabolic ecosystem in space environment, especially focusing on immune dysfunction, by analyzing intestinal microbiota, metabolic circulation and the various immune functions, using astronauts and/or mice feces, as well as murine tissues. To this end, we will obtain feces non-invasively from astronauts and/or space-flown mice and store the samples in freezer. We will also obtain the fecal samples upon their return on earth. These samples will be subjected to metagenome analysis with pyrosequencing, to reveal the whole picture of changes in intestinal microbiota in response to space/ground environmental difference. The same samples will also be subjected to metabolomics, ionomics and stable isotope ratio analyses to identify characteristic metabolic biomarkers affected by space environment. In addition, we will analyze the influence of space environment on the immune system by gene expression profiling and functional assays of various immune tissues collected from the mice returning from the space. This proposal deals with the basic biological problems based on the upcoming long-term cohabitation of humans and other (micro) organisms in the space environment. The outcome of our study can be utilized for the evaluation of stress responses as well as the health management of astronauts. It could also benefit the field of medical science such as the preventive medicine for the elderly and environmental responses of living organisms. In addition, evaluation of inter-organismal metabolic circulation could be applied into the recycling usage of limited resources in the closed environment.

Research field Physical science
Title Fundamental Research on International Standard of Fire Safety in Space
-base for safety of future manned mission-
Principal Investigator Osamu Fujita, Dr.Eng., Professor of Hokkaido University
Abstract Fire safety is a key issue for future human space activities. Previous research showed that the flammability of solid materials is strongly affected by gravity, and the flammability of materials is increased in microgravity under some conditions. On the other hand, NASA's fire safety standard is based on tests in normal gravity and recent results indicate that materials may be more flammability in space so that normal gravity limits may not always be conservative in space. Therefore, it is important to know the real flammability limits, such as minimum energy for ignition and limiting oxygen concentration at extinction, and to discuss the difference between the real flammability limits and the limits given in normal gravity. In this study, the material's flammability in microgravity will be evaluated under controlled conditions for different types of material and will be compared with the results in normal gravity. Further, the controlling mechanisms for flammability under various gravitational conditions will be discussed. At present, Japanese human missions are limited to the activities aboard ISS. JAXA's fire safety protocols utilize NASA's fire safety standard. Flammability limit data in microgravity is needed to help determine if the NASA's standard will be applied for future space missions by individual countries, or if better general standards for fire safety on the ground (ex. oxygen index method) would be a better standard for fire safety in space. For this evaluation, flammability data of solid materials in microgravity and the controlling mechanisms limiting the flammability should be thoroughly studied as a basis of the evaluation. The members of this research team will participate in this scientific evaluation and will provide recommendations for the selection of the fire safety standards to be used in future space missions.

Selected general research proposals
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