Cell Science-04 (CS-04)
Using Water Bears to Identify Biological Countermeasures to Stress During Multigenerational Spaceflight
The tardigrade – also known as a water bear – is a model organism for studying biological survival under the most extreme environmental stress conditions on Earth and in space. The objective of the Cell Science-04 investigation is to characterize the short-term and multigenerational survival of water bears by identifying genes required for adaptation and survival in high-stress environments. The findings of this study could be applied to understanding the stress factors of humans in the space environment and identifying countermeasures to protect astronauts from long-duration space missions.
The tardigrades will be cultured in the Bioculture System experiment hardware and launched to the International Space Station aboard the SpaceX-22 Commercial Resupply Services mission on June 3, 2021.
This research team has also developed a reverse genetic approach, RNA interference, for tardigrades that allows them to directly investigate the role of a gene in conferring tolerance to an environment. These approaches are used by the team to study tardigrades’ initial, as well as multigenerational response to spaceflight, and use RNA interference to test the functionality of the genes identified in this study. Several expression analyses will be conducted to compare station spaceflight time points, ground controls, and tardigrades exposed to other extreme stresses (e.g., desiccation, freezing, etc.). This approach allows the team to identify potential mediators of stress tolerance, which will serve as candidates for functional additional, future RNA interference experiments. These experiments will allow us to understand how these extremely hardy animals cope with prolonged exposure to space environments and help pave the way for a healthy and productive prolonged human presence in space.
Space Station Research Explorer - Cell Science-04