Jul 10, 2007 - Claremont, Calif. - About Harvey Mudd College
HMC professors Shenda Baker and Elizabeth Orwin will work with investigators from Hawaii Chitopure Inc., BioSTAR West and the University of Louisville on studies of human cell responses in microgravity during the scheduled 11-day flight.
Baker and Orwin helped coordinate the research design and will provide oversight to the Hawaii Chitopure-sponsored experiment, which is based on years of space flight efforts and spearheaded by William Wiesmann, M.D., president and CEO of Hawaii Chitopure Inc., senior managing partner of BioSTAR West and a trustee at Harvey Mudd College.
“I’m delighted to be a part of this outstanding team and have enjoyed contributing to these research efforts that should increase our understanding of the mechanisms of immune system failure following trauma,” said Baker, professor of chemistry at HMC and managing partner at BioSTAR West. “We benefit from the long history and partnership of Dr. Wiesmann with NASA and Harvey Mudd College, as well as from the opportunity to continue to involve undergraduates and faculty in one of the most innovative and rare opportunities to study the systemic responses to trauma through human cell-based genomic and proteomic responses.”
Astronauts and space-flown mammalian cells show a similar weakened immune response to wounds and injury. These experiments will study the effects of microgravity on wound repair and the ability of chitosan-based materials to accelerate the wound healing process, reduce infection and ultimately reduce wound scarring. (Chitosan is a polysaccharide found in the shells of crustaceans and is used in water purification, as a food preservative, for promoting wound healing and as a bandage with hemorrhage control properties.) Because the effects of microgravity on immune and wound-healing cells are similar to the body’s response following trauma on Earth, these experiments also offer an excellent opportunity to observe the fundamental genetic responses to these compounds with and without infection.
“It’s exciting to continue to be a part of the space program and to be able to include faculty and students from Harvey Mudd College,” said Wiesmann. “We first developed the bioreactor that maintains the cells in microgravity through a sponsored Clinic project at Harvey Mudd College, and continue to be impressed with our talented and dedicated partners helping to understand the role of the new technologies for antibacterials and immune modulators that aid in wound healing. It is interesting to note that on this planet, although environment and temperature and atmosphere have changed over the millennia, the one constant has been gravity. While bacterial cells seem to thrive in microgravity, mammalian cells have hindered responses to stimuli. We still have a lot to learn about our own biology through understanding these processes.”
Through this collaboration, investigators will examine the effect of microgravity on human monocytes, which are typically one of the first responders to infection and trauma, and will begin to develop a better understanding of the role of chitosan-based biocompatible antibacterials in modulating the response. They will also be able to monitor the transformations of cells that return from space, and concurrently examine them over time as their human counterparts—the astronauts—also experience life post-space flight.
The team also includes Eugenia Wang of the University of Louisville, who has previously participated on research efforts with Wiesmann on prior shuttle missions. Wang will contribute her expertise in space flight technology and analysis techniques to identify and quantify the effect of microgravity on the responses of genes and proteins using microchip platform technology. She was one of the earliest researchers to identify genes and proteins impacting the process of apoptosis (cell death), and she was directly involved in the experiments on STS-93, where she investigated the stresses of microgravity and its similarity to the aging process on Earth.
During the duration of the mission, the team will conduct an identical experiment simultaneously on Earth. Following the mission, analyses will be done to compare the space-based and ground-based cellular expression.
About BioSTAR West
Founded in 2005, BioSTAR West (www.biostarwest.com) is a bioengineering and biomaterials company focused on the R&D of advanced biomaterials for a variety of medical and pharmaceutical applications. BioSTAR West is a member of the BioSTAR Group, an affiliation of several R&D and consulting companies. BioSTAR West is located in Claremont CA, approximately 0.5 miles from Harvey Mudd College.
Harvey Mudd College (www.hmc.edu) is a national leader in undergraduate education in engineering, science and mathematics, with a strong emphasis on humanities and the social sciences. The college’s mission is to produce citizens sensitive to the impact of their work on society. Its small size (about 700 students and 80 faculty) and rigorous curriculum produce graduates with a well-rounded knowledge base and team-tested approach to problem solving. Harvey Mudd College is a member of The Claremont Colleges Consortium, which also includes Claremont Graduate University, Claremont McKenna College, Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Science, Pitzer College, Pomona College and Scripps College, offering the benefits of a small college in the context of a larger, university-like setting.
About Harvey Mudd College