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Nerve Cell Experiment Soars to 31+ Kilometers

13.03.2009
An experiment testing the effects of space radiation on human nerve cells was successfully flown more than 31 kilometers high (about 99,000 feet) and safely returned to Earth by The University of Alabama in Huntsville Space Hardware Club.

"We are excited to report the mission was a success!" said Dr. Lynx McClellan, a clinical associate professor in the College of Nursing. "The payload made it back to Earth and was recovered intact. We have some surviving neurons!"

It was the first time the club has flown an experiment for someone not affiliated with the organization.

"We are asking if central nervous system cells are exposed to an array of radiation, will they exhibit markers of nitrous oxide and oxidative stress which lead to CNS disease or disfunction?" said Dr. Amy Bishop, an assistant professor of biological sciences.

The experiment package was launched on a high-altitude balloon early on March 7 from the university's campus and was safely recovered more than 90 miles away on Signal Mountain, near Chattanooga, Tenn.

"This would presumably duplicate an EVA for an astronaut," Bishop said. "The neurons in our experiment are not shielded while an astronaut's neurons are somewhat shielded, so the shorter time unshielded might equal a longer exposure time for the whole body."

The flight also tested whether the Cell Drive, a portable cell incubator and "life support system" invented at UAHuntsville, could keep cells alive in environments ranging from surface conditions to the low-oxygen, sub-zero environment in the stratosphere.

"The Cell Drive was successful in maintaining the cells before, during and after flight," McClellan said. "The surviving neurons are growing in an incubator and will be studied."

Phil Gentry | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.uah.edu

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