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.