Six new proposals divided among four universities will use open-access spaceflight research data available via NASA’s GeneLab to understand how living systems adapt to the environment in space, and how that knowledge can be applied to better understand systems here on Earth. Research includes how plants respond to spaceflight, changes in fungal and microbial organisms that may cause infection, cancer-related responses to simulated space radiation, and how exposure to space-like conditions affect the cells that make up blood vessels.
The research projects will either develop new computational biology tools that will let GeneLab users perform unique informatics research or use ground-based experimental approaches to test novel hypotheses that have been derived from analysis of GeneLab data. NASA’s Space Biology Program funded the proposals, which the researchers submitted in response to NASA Research Announcement (NRA) NHH16ZTT001N-GL, "Appendix A: GeneLab Innovation Awards for Translational Systems Biology and Informatics Research Using the GeneLab Data System.”
The GeneLab Data System is NASA’s open-access, online searchable data repository for Space Biology experiment results. The data collected in this system cut across multiple biological/biomedical science disciplines and areas of research emphases to address fundamental biology hypotheses and to enable translational biology relevant for commercial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals applications.
The GeneLab repository allows access to all of the collected data organized by species and space flight missions, including a process for submitting datasets to the repository. The GeneLab data repository also includes metadata related to the spaceflight and ground-based experiments, which is of critical importance for researchers to accurately interpret and analyze these data for their own specific investigations.
The selected proposals include three principal investigators who will be receiving their first Space Biology grant award. When fully implemented, the grants are worth a total of about $1.4 million during a one- to two-year period.
Josephine Allen, Ph.D. University Of Florida, Gainsville– Microgravity Effects on Co-Cultured Vascular Cells Types
Simon Gilroy, Ph.D. University Of Wisconsin, Madison– Genelab: Revealing Spaceflight-and Gravity-Response Networks in Plants
Nancy Keller, Ph.D. University Of Wisconsin, Madison– “Omics” Data Mining of the ISS Aspergillus fumigatus Strains in Elucidating Virulence Characteristics
Elliot Meyerowitz, Ph.D. California Institute of Technology– Using GeneLab Data to Identify Novel Gravity Sensory Components in Arabidopsis
Wayne Nicholson, Ph.D. University Of Florida, Gainsville– Comparative Evaluation of Microbial Transcriptomic Responses to Spaceflight Stress: Elucidating Underlying Molecular Mechanisms
Christopher Porada, Ph.D. Wake Forest University– Effects of Microgravity on the Risks of Space Radiation-Induced Leukemogenesis
The Space Biology Program is managed by the Space Life and Physical Sciences Division in NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington.