First successful PCR experiment performed in space
The initial proof of concept experiment involved a technique known as polymerase chain reaction (PCR), by which multiple copies of a target DNA are generated. In this case, bisulfite-treated DNA, which is commonly used to study epigenetic changes, was amplified with a modified version of Q5® High-Fidelity DNA Polymerase from NEB®. Enabling these experiments was a thermocycler called miniPCR™, a Kickstarter-funded instrument from co-founders Sebastian Kraves and Ezequiel Alvarez-Saavedra. The miniPCR is portable and can be controlled by a laptop or cell phone making it perfect for teaching labs, field work, and now, the ISS.
The experiment was conducted on board the space station on April 19th, and samples were returned from space on May 11th. Boguraev analyzed the samples during a recent visit to NEB’s campus in Ipswich, MA. The proof of concept experiment was successful, making this the first PCR experiment performed in space. Boguraev will be presenting her results at the 2016 ISS R&D conference being held in San Diego, CA on July 12-14, 2016.
“We are very excited that the first PCR experiment in space was a success and that NEB was able to play a small role in the experimental optimization and flight-worthiness of the reagents used in Anna-Sophia’s experiment,” stated Nicole Nichols, Group Leader, Amplification Product Development at NEB and 2016 Genes in Space judge. “Our curiosity and passion for science starts when we’re young. Being involved in helping the next-generation of young scientists reach for the stars has been an immensely fun and rewarding endeavor.”
“The ability for scientists to conduct research in a zero gravity environment opens up enormous possibilities in being able to understand the effects of space travel on human health,” added Sebastian Kraves from miniPCR and Co-investigator in the first Genes in Space experiment. “We are excited to play a role in bringing DNA analysis capabilities to new places around the globe, and now beyond Earth.”
The Genes in Space competition is a national STEM competition that challenges students in grades 7 through 12 to propose DNA experiments to solve a space exploration problem. Boguraev was the winner of the first competition. Finalists were recently announced for the 2016 competition, with the winner being chosen at the upcoming ISS R&D conference.
The annual competition is a partnership between Boeing, Math for America (MƒA), miniPCR, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), New England Biolabs, Inc. (NEB).
To learn more about the Genes in Space Competition, visit www.genesinspace.org.
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Deana D. Martin, Ph.D.
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