rocket launch

PromoKine in Space

PromoCells in Space - Part II: PromoKine in Gravitational Biology Research 

As the story of PromoCells in Space continues, this latest voyage gave PromoKine the chance to prove itself in the field of gravitational biology research.

It was the 13th of February 2012 at 9.32 UTC when the sounding rocket MASER-12 was finally launched from the ESRANGE Space Center in Northern Sweden. It had to be postponed several times after it was first scheduled for take off in November 2011, due to the mild winter and high wind speeds. Strong winds can disrupt the rockets path, and the landing area has to be frozen to keep the payload from sinking into one of the many lakes covering Lapland. MASER-12 reached an apogee of 260 km and a total of 6 minutes in microgravity.

On board MASER-12 were human T lymphocytes and the goal is to study the effect of weightlessness on their receptor composition and membrane-proximal signaling pathways. This is of relevance to gravitational biology research, because it remains unsolved why the human immune system fails in zero-g causing astronauts to suffer from simple bacterial and fungal infections that don't pose any serious problem on earth. To shed some light on the molecular and cellular responses to weightlessness, researchers including Dr. Augusto Cogoli (ETH Zurich) and Prof. Oliver Ullrich (University of Zurich and Magdeburg) take a closer look at the processes induced upon zero-g in different cell types of the human immune system.

After their flight to suborbit, the T lymphocytes were subjected to onsite FACS analysis directly after landing using PromoKine primary antibodies labeled with PromoFluor 488 Premium. The results are currently being analyzed in Zurich, where hopes are high for exciting new insights into transcriptional and translational regulation of human T cells.

In our photo gallery below, you can see some pictures of the thrilling story "PromoCells in Space Part 2", or check out the video on the right. And stay tuned for Part 3, coming soon!

Pictures were taken by Isabell Buttron, Dr. Svantje Tauber and Swantje Hauschild.

PromoKine in Space

MASER-12 Mission Logo

Northern Sweden in February 2012

A thermometer at the European Space Range (ESRANGE) showing the outside temperature of unbelievable -31.5 °C. Incredibly cold!

And this is what -31.5°C look outside, at the lab's roof gutter...

... a lonely group of frozen trees...

... a lantern with ice crystals on its pole...

... and the liquid nitrogen tank that's usually only used to such low temperatures from the inside.

Inside the lab snowmen have a restricted lifetime.

Incubators at ESRANGE ensuring cosy temperatures for the cells.

Air humidifiers fighting the extreme air dryness due to the extreme cold outside.

Checking the cells' health status.

The tools for filling the cells into the flight compartments.

Compartments filled with T lymphocytes.

Compartments mounted into holder.

Assembly of the experiment module.

The experiment module with the centrifuge for the 1 g controls.

Last work on the experiment module.

The experiment module sitting and waiting in the incubator for its integration into the rocket.

Schematic of the BIM-2 module location within the rocket's payload.

Assembly of MASER-12.

Work at the top part of MASER-12.

Voilà the rocket! Oops, wrong one...

There it is: MASER-12! Still missing its motor units...

The motor units waiting next door for assembly.

View to the top inside the launch tower.

The launch tower from the outside.

Countdown on one of the screens.

3, 2, 1... Launch!

Wads of smoke over ESRANGE reminding of what just happened.

After return of the payload the experiment modules are recovered by helicopter.

The compartments with the T lymphocytes after their rocket flight and weightlessness.

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