Saturday, June 11, 2011

Time to rewire

As the time-to-fly time crunch bit down on our bones a bit harder, a device rewire proved to be a time-saving strategy in hardware debugging. Each module was wired individually with ribbion cable and to the main power supply via daisy-chain connectors.

 30 gauge wire nest

Rewired to allow module isolation and simple plug and play.
 Device running with UV-LEDs activated

Monday, June 6, 2011

Endeavor's final welcome home

Our team witnessed the STS-134 crew return ceremony at Ellington Field. Astronauts Mark Kelly, Greg Johnson, Michael Fincke, Roberto Vittori, Andrew Feustel, and Greg Chamitoff discuss their experience aboard space shuttle Endeavor's final mission.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Cell culture care at Johnson Space Center

Stephanie Frahs, Dawn Mikelonis, and Ben Davis worked in the Immunology Lab at NASA JSC for an upward 4 hours on the first round of maintenance on our flight experiment cell cultures. With 8 million cells to care for, that's not a bad rate.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Fluorometer assembly comes together...just in time for Houston departure

We've arrived in Houston!  Updates soon to come on the first day's activities and surprise events. First, here's a look back on our last minute assembly and subsystem integration of our ratiometric fluorometer for microgravity flight. This device detects real-time calcium flux in bone cell culture...or any cell culture that is!  We've already determined some interesting sample candidates to test for fluorescent properties (Sondra's hair made the top of the list!).

Friday, May 27, 2011

Machining modules like mad men

The outer assembly of the team's flight hardware is nearly complete in the machine shop...only ~140 holes left to tap! Thanks to Adam Spiegelman of the Boise State machine shop for the time and CNC skills. Applaus to David for his long-time design commitment to these ratiometric fluorometer modules now coming together as final product for flight!

This is not Bronco Blue

...this is closer to the 405nm spectrum! Any lower wavelength, and your eyes would bleed UV tears. Kidding—this is not the logic behind our team t-shirt color. Rather, we aim to match the calcium indicator fluorescent blue in the state of bound and unbound calcium ions when excited by UV-light. We considered going for 355nm wavelength t-shirts (the wavelength spectra of our UV-LED excitation source), but as you know...the human eye cannot detect 355nm light, and we don't want to wear invisible shirts :)

We are very appreciative of our supporters!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bone cells survive shipment to NASA Johnson Space Center

The Immunology Lab at Johnson Space Center has received our overnight shipment of MLO-Y4 osteocyte liquid bone cell culture. The news: cells are alive and still kickin'! Below is a microscope image of the live culture. They do look quite happy—obviously they don't know they're 23 days away from a zero gravity experience...

Image courtesy of Dr. Brian Crucian and Mayra Nelman, NASA Johnson Space Center

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Searching for cures: science reveals biological complexity of bones

Throughout our adult lives, the body works day and night to clear away patches of weak bone and build up new and stronger bone. When that balance falters in either direction, it spells trouble. Osteoporosis, which literally means porous bones, occurs when bone breakdown outpaces bone buildup. Just bending or coughing can cause a fracture. Too much bone, on the other hand, can lead to rare bone diseases or even bone cancer.

View the full article here.

Ignite Boise 6

Gravitational Modulation of Bone Cells: live presentation in Boise, ID at the Egyptian Theatre. Fast-paced project overview (with some emphasis on opportunity at Boise State through technical education). This video is also archived under "The Experiment" section of this blogsite.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Microgravity Science Café is set with DCI

Mark your calendars (gCal, iCal, Outlook and otherwise) for May 17, 7:00PM @Bardenay downtown Boise: our biology and engineer team members will hang out for a community chat regarding microgravity bone cell research. Open to the community, friendly, and informal! Bring your nerdiness enthusiasm for science...

View the details here.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Soldering for the sake of science

Ron solders together the circuit boards for prototype version 1.1 of our ratiometric fluorometer. This model won't make it to zero gravity, but it's one step closer to final flight product!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Calm cuvette snow storm

This is not a snow globe. For one, this cuvette is no where near spherical. Second, spring in Boise means there's no way we're blogging about real snow  ...below is a first look at osteoblast bone cell culture and gravity's subtle pull on the microcarrier matrix the cells attach to; somewhat suspended in phosphate buffered saline...mmmm.  Excited by this action?  Same here.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ignite Boise slide snippet

Partial view of 1 of the 20 slides that will ignite Boise in 6 days...

Friday, April 15, 2011

The evolution of the insert

Prototyping is difficult need to have an inadequate part to further obscure your data!  Here's how non-real-engineers (biologist and computer scientist) craft a perfect part for prototype tests from random supplies around the lab (Foam + tape = no good. Cork tile = no good. Cork tile + foam + tape + more tape = perfect fit).  Here's to more certain reproducibility!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

BSU Microgravity to Ignite Boise!

Our study has been selected for an  Ignite Boise 6 presentation slot!

On April 21st, we'll present the zero gravity experience and details of our project to a large community audience Downtown at the Egyptian Theatre.

Visual of fluorescence intensity with varied calcium concentration


This video demonstrates the general idea behind our experiment: the more dye present in sample, the brighter the sample fluoresces, or "glows".  Further, this shows that adjusting the amount of calcium in the sample will also change the brightness.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Prototype testing for qualitative data

We are in full-swing design mode!

Below is a video that captures the first qualitative fluorescence intensity data of our bone cell cultures. In simple words, here's what's happening: the smaller plastic well plate in the center of the video, which appears to be glowing, contains osteoblast bone cells. This plate sits on top of a UV-table that shines UV-light onto the bone cells. Our biology team members loaded the cells with a special dye called Indo-1...this dye is the key to our whole experiment! When exposed to UV-light (like the sun), the Indo-1 dye fluoresces (or lights up) and emits a wavelength of light that's visible to the human eye. In this video, only a small number of cells are in the wells...about 200,000...which makes things a bit hard to see on video. On board the flight, we expect to have well over 1 million cells!

When the bone cells "light up" or fluoresce, they emit two particular wavelengths of light that we're interested in measuring. In order to capture this light intensity, we use light sensors called photodiodes. In simple words, here's how it works: shine a light at the photodiode and watch the sensor's voltage output increase. Here's a video below demonstrating two photodiodes in action. The sensors are wired into the sides of our first instrument prototype assembly.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Press Release: Bone Remodeling

The Arbiter recently covered a front-page story on the Oxford bone cell research lab at Boise State, where our team members Stephanie, Dawn, and Ben conduct bone cell research:

Bones are constantly undergoing a process called bone remodeling, which is the process where osteoclasts (a type of bone cell) chew away at old bone and osteoblasts (another type of bone cell). Biological sciences Professor Julia Oxford, Ph.D, is heading a research team to investigate the details of this process at the molecular level, hopefully leading to drug therapies that can help reverse or prevent bone density loss, like when astronauts come back to Earth. After all, this bone remodeling is effected by outside forces — namely, gravity.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Introductory visit to Dr. Oxford's cell culture research lab at Boise State

The past few weeks our team has traversed the beginning stages of our research: engineering design challenge, meetings, new team members in, new team members out, meetings, requirements revision, project timeline development, meetings, and a first visit to the lab where our biologists will be culturing bone cells for our experiment. We've also had some meetings :)  

Check out some inside images and video of the engineers' visit to the life science side of campus:

A view of the bottles, fluid tubes, and biological instrumentation nest in the Oxford Lab.

12-well microtiter plate containing infant osteoblast.

This is exactly what you'd expect...a microscope (Jake had a hard time figuring out how to use even the more
well known biological devices—he'll stick to computers)!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

BSU Microgravity Press Release

Much thanks to Boise State's wonderful communications and marketing specialist, Erin Ryan, for an early press release:

Boise State students and faculty are gearing up for one of the greatest educational adventures on the planet — or off, as the case may be . . . The foundation of their study is the serious issue of bone density loss suffered by astronauts who endure long periods of weightlessness.