Sending Fruit Flies to Space!


Hello and welcome to my first post. It is a privilege to share my project with you. For the past three years, I have been a part of something special, working on and assisting with developing a set of experiments to send to the space station. Here is a brief summary of the project:

What do we do? 

We use fruit flies as a model organism to understand the effects of space travel/microgravity on the heart.

Why do we study this?

It is known that prolonged space travel has a negative impact on the heart. Astronauts return with altered heart function and shape. We are looking at the genetic changes that cause the heart change over time in space, in order to seek out a target gene or mechanism for future therapeutic remedies. 

As the future of space travel becomes a reality within our grasp, understanding and treating biological abnormalities is going to be crucial. People cannot mine on the moon or travel to Mars if their hearts function poorly. 

Whose idea was it?

Originally, NASA saw the need to understand the effects of space travel on the heart and recognized the benefit of using model organisms for such research. So, they recruited the Bodmer-Ocorr Lab to assist, since they are experts at using fruit flies for cardiac studies. Dr. Bodmer and Dr. Ocorr have both contributed immensely to their field and developed unique techniques and software to understand it. You can find more on their websites on my “Links” page.

What is the image at the top of the post?

These are called VFBS (Vented Fly Boxes). These are what we use to send vials of flies in on our missions.  You see three generations of boxes, in the front, the silver box is the original box that came back from space in 2014. Then, in the back, you see a prototype and the new version of the VFB going up this year. 

When are we doing this?

Our first mission, “Heart Flies” launched in spring of 2014. Currently, we look forward to sending our flies up on SpaceX 11, scheduled to launch next week on June 1st. 

Please follow my blog to keep up with the pre-launch countdown and follow up with the project once it splashes down. 

Finally, I look forward to hearing from you. Please comment and ask questions. I would love to answer them and explain my research to you.

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