Posted: Thursday, May 14, 2009
Astrogenetix, Inc., a subsidiary of the Astrotech Corporation, today announced preliminary findings from its microgravity-based virulence survey aboard Shuttle Discovery (STS-119) launched on March 15, 2009. These results showed that methicillinresistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and other microbes exhibit altered phenotypical responses during spaceflight. The research demonstrated that the unique environment of microgravity impacted the growth of MRSA bacteria, which will aid researchers in the discovery of potential targets for a vaccine or therapeutic agent to fight infections caused by these microbes.
"The success of this survey flight demonstrates that microgravity truly offers a unique platform for drug discovery and development," explains Thomas B. Pickens III, chairman of Astrogenetix. "We are pleased with the outcome of the survey flight and are tremendously excited with the opportunities for the
development of life-saving biomedicines in space."
Astrogenetix is building on the results of the MRSA survey flight with additional research aboard Shuttle Atlantis (STS-125) on NASA's Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission 4 which launched May 11, 2009. The follow-on flight will help the Company isolate important factors responsible for growth and virulence, the ability of the organisms to cause disease.
"Our research provides evidence that the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory is a valuable resource that needs to be utilized," added John Porter, chief executive officer of Astrogenetix. "Our National Laboratory Pathfinder (NLP) missions have been a tremendous success and represent just a
fraction of the possibilities for microgravity discoveries."
MRSA is a type of bacteria that causes infections which are resistant to the typical antibiotics used to treat illness caused by this organism. According to the Center for Disease Control, it is estimated that MRSA is responsible for more than 94,000 serious infections and 19,000 deaths annually. The 2005 NASA
Authorization Act designated a portion of the ISS as a National Laboratory, and NASA has provided an opportunity for non-governmental entities to conduct research and development and potentially industrial processing on board the ISS. Astrogenetix is one of the first commercial entities to hold a Space Act
Agreement with NASA for use of the ISS National Lab.
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