Biorack Hardware

Below is the OSTEO hardware made by CCM. The CCM 'plunger box' (on the right) and its black housing 'Type I Container' are shown below. The plunger box contains 6 fluid reservoirs and the growth chanbers where the osteoblast coverslips are contained. Growth induction is started in orbit by activating the trigger on the plunger box inside the green circle. The samples are preserved by activating the trigger inside the red circle. The black type I container shown on the left gives a second level of fluid containment for the experiment. The combined unit is placed into the ESA Biorack** 37o incubators for the experiments. More details about the Type I container and plunger box is below. The plunger boxes are placed in the Biorack incubator on orbit.


Type I container on left, Plungerbox with cell cultures on right


The plunger boxes (above) are designed to provide a sterile environment for cell growth stimulation in space. The sealed boxes will allow the astronaut/scientist to perform cell biology while in space, and also allow us to retrieve the boxes to perform experiments after their landing on earth. Each plunger box contains 2 identical cell chambers that each hold 2 coverslips of cells (not shown). There are 6 plunger chambers; 4 that hold the activation media (labeled A,B,D,F); and 2 that hold a special solution which preserves the cells for further analysis on earth (labeled C,F). However, only 1 activation media is released into the chamber (green stickers). The second activation media is present as a backup, in case thefirst one does not work. All of the solutions are put into membranes that are loaded into the plunger chambers. In space, the astronaut can release a spring which has a force large enough to inject the activation media from the membranes into the cell chambers (located with a green stickers). To do this, a special tool was designed to release the spring from its locked position. After its release, the plungerhead puts pressure on the membranes to be released into the cell chambers. The media will provide the cells with nutrients that will allow them to start growing. After activation, the cells will grow for a period of time until they are preserved with the special solution, located in the third plunger well (red stickers). This also must be triggered by the astronaut with the tool. When the cells are fixed (preserved), they will remain at -20oC until arrival to the Lab in San Francsico. Upon arrival, various experiments will be performed such as RT-PCR, to study gene expression of bone cells in microgravity. All the hardware is cleaned by sonication.

The Biorack Type One Container is placed into the the Biorack incubater either in the static rack (0G) (left side of photo) or in the Centrifuge (right side of the photo) that can simulate gravity force.


biorack cent.gif (46608 bytes)

Biorack static and centrifuge racks that fit into incubator


*Centrum voor Constructie en Mechanatronica Nuenen, Netherlands. The CCM team that makes our Osteo experiment possible are: H. Willemsen, H. Leysten, H. Michels and Antoon Koppen.

**The ESTEC Biorack Team: The efforts of the team's director, Peter Genzel, and his scientific staff Claude Brillouet, Enno Brinkmann and Eve Stavros have helped make this experiment possible.

Back to [Experimenting in Space] or [About Bones in Space]