Two Canadian Science Projects Onboard Space Shuttle Columbia

Press Release From: Canadian Space Agency
Posted: Thursday, January 16, 2003

image Saint-Hubert, Quebec, January 16, 2003 - Launched today from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-107) will spend 16 days in orbit to allow astronauts to perform some 100 science experiments in microgravity on behalf of researchers from around the world. Canadian scientists are flying two research projects involving several experiments onboard Columbia. These experiments could ultimately have applications in the health sector.

The OSTEO-2 experiments will further our understanding of bone loss during spaceflight. Three science teams have been selected for this project: two represent the Canadian academic community and the third is a joint venture between the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and two industrial partners.

  • Dr. Leticia G. Rao, Principal Investigator, and Dr. Tim Murray, co-investigator, both of St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, lead a team investigating the use of hormones to increase bone formation in microgravity.
  • Another team, led by Dr. Reginald M. Gorczynski of the University Health Network (UHN), Toronto, will investigate how disturbances in sleep and immune functions may influence bone metabolism.
  • Finally, Mr. Dennis R. Sindrey of Millenium Biologix, together with Dr. Bradford T. Brinton of NPS Pharmaceuticals, will build on the previous OSTEO-1 experiment to characterize and identify bone gene regulation patterns in microgravity.
  • Furthermore, Dr. Heersche from the University of Toronto will look at how microgravity affects the differentiation of cells involved in bone metabolism and examine the observation that in bone, fat cell differentiation is inversely proportional to bone cell differentiation.

The other Canadian research project onboard STS-107 involves protein crystal growth. Earth-based laboratories have a hard time growing large or perfect protein crystals. The size and quality of proteins crystallized in space are usually much better because gravity-induced effects such as sedimentation and convection do not impair their growth. This makes space-grown protein crystals much easier and more interesting to study. Scientists study the architecture of crystallized proteins to understand how their molecules interact. A precise knowledge of protein structures helps design more efficient medication, with fewer side effects. Protein crystal growth has applications in the fight against cancer and diabetes, as well as in research to control antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The principal investigators of this research project are Dr. Lin, Universit» Laval; Dr. Sygusch, Universit» de Montr»al; Dr. Christendat, University of Toronto; Dr. Delbaere, University of Saskatchewan; and Dr. Cygler, Biotechnology Research Institute.


For more information, contact:

Monique Billette
Senior Media Relations Officer
Canadian Space Agency
Telephone: (450) 926-4370

Mission STS-107 Website

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