Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield performing microscopic survey of NanoRacks protein crystal samples aboard International Space Station (ISS)

NanoRacks LLC is pleased with the results of a protein-crystal growth experiment recently conducted aboard the International Space Station by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield.

NanoRacks describes the experiment as a proof of concept which shows that a much larger number of X-ray crystallization experiments are now possible.

Previous microgravity protein-crystallization experiments relied on custom-built hardware. NanoRacks worked with Emerald Bio, a leading biopharma firm in Boston and Seattle, to adapt their off-the-shelf hardware for microgravity use. The new hardware allows researchers to use smaller protein samples in hundreds of different experimental conditions, at far lower cost. “Within a couple of missions, we will have tested more proteins than all previous microgravity missions combined,” said NanoRacks chief technology officer Michael Johnson.

The principal investigator for the experiment was Carl Carruthers, Jr. of The Methodist Hospital Research Institute (who was a speaker at the highly successful Space Hacker Workshop in May).

“We have great crystals,” Carruthers said. “The novel use of an industry standard research method worked perfectly. One of the proteins that grew on the space station was a therapeutic target for controlling metabolism and diabetes. These initial results are very encouraging. With advances in technology, innovations being realized on the ground can now extend to space.”

“The positive results we are announcing today kickstart a whole new chapter,” said NanoRacks CEO Jeffrey Manber. “This creates a new pathway for the biopharma research industry. Each new protein structure discovery could mean new potential treatments for cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s or multiple sclerosis.”

Written by Astro1 on June 6th, 2013 , NanoRacks

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