Principal investigator and @NASA_ARES scientist Aaron Burton has been working with team members from NASA Johnson Space Center, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA Ames Research Center, Weill Cornell Medical College, and Oxford Nanopore Technologies Inc. on the Biomolecule Sequencer (MinION) that is scheduled to head to the International Space Station this summer. Sequencing is a powerful molecular biology technique that helps us to understand the molecular basis of biological activity at the level of DNA, RNA, and proteins, and with the analysis of sequence data we can identify organisms, and track how they respond to changes in their environment. The objectives of the Biomolecule Sequencer are to provide proof-of-concept for the functionality and crew operability of a DNA sequencer in the space environment. Some of the capabilities that would be provided by incorporating sequencing into space exploration are in-flight microbial identification for crew and vehicle health assessments, monitoring changes at the DNA and RNA level in astronauts and microbes, and analyzing life based on DNA or DNA-like molecules on other worlds, if present. As mentioned in the “State of NASA” address by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, in May, astronaut Kate Rubins will launch to the International Space Station (ISS) and plans to become the first person to perform DNA sequencing in space after she arrives at the ISS.
To read more about the Biomolecule Sequencer go to: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/2181.html#overview
Watch a video interview with Dr. Aaron Burton at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g701qIxrMlU