Two hundred and twenty miles above the Earth, tiny baby squid, no more than three millimeters in length, held the key to learning more about the human immune system and the balance between health and disease.
Aboard the International Space Station (ISS), researchers working with the University of Florida recreated an ecosystem unrestricted by the effects of gravity to study microbe interaction in living cells. By observing microbes within the squid in a near weightless environment, researchers secured a better understanding of the role microbes play in activating and regulating the immune system.
The presence and absence of gravity bears greatly on numerous life and physical science research for public and private institutions across the Florida High Tech Corridor and beyond. Institutions located throughout the Corridor region are uniquely positioned to leverage their proximity to Florida’s Space Coast for research in perhaps the most unique lab environment available, aboard the ISS.
Based at Kennedy Space Center, the Center for Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) works with organizations and companies to get their projects “off the ground.” A not-for-profit, with funding from the U.S. government, CASIS is responsible for enabling ISS access and dollars for research and technical developments of benefit to the planet and humankind.
The market for space research has grown significantly since CASIS was founded five years ago and appointed by Congress to manage the U.S. National Laboratory on the ISS. In fiscal year 2012, CASIS awarded four research projects for the ISS. In fiscal year 2015, CASIS awarded and supported nearly 50 research project requests. That’s a clear opportunity for The Corridor’s growing private space exploration industry.
“Having more players and suppliers in the marketplace, as well as the efforts of SpaceX , Orbital ATK and other companies working to find a way to make breakthroughs and money, drives innovation,” said Dr. Roberts.
According to Dr. Michael S. Roberts, CASIS deputy chief scientist, the challenges of space make it the perfect environment for advanced research involving biological systems. “The microgravity environment of space accelerates disease onset, mimicking what happens here on Earth, but at a faster rate,” said Roberts. “This is useful for fundamental understanding of root cause of disease, which may help cure or prevent disease onset.”