Rotifer B1

Rotifer B1



Project Name: Rotifer B1

Customer: European Space Agency

Objective: Determine the effects of spaceflight on gene expression using the validated model organism Rotifer A. vaga.


In preparation for long-term spaceflight the human body faces two major challenges: (1) high levels of ionizing radiation originating from the Sun and deep space; (2) physiological consequences of microgravity, including shift of body fluids, neurovestibular effects, decrease in muscle mass, bone demineralization and immune dysregulation.

Cosmic rays pose an increased risk of cancer occurrence, potentially leading to DNA mutations and/or genomic rearrangements. Microgravity is suspected to reduce the efficiency of DNA repair, further increasing the possibility of carcinogenesis.

The Rotifer experiment explores the cumulative effect of space radiation and microgravity encountered by living organisms in LEO. The selected test organism is the bdelloid rotifer Adineta vaga; its rate of survival, genomic structure and gene expression will be investigated after the flight.

Rotifer-B will study the alleged reduced repair process of cellular DNA in microgravity. Rotifer-B1 focuses on the effects of spaceflight on gene expression, aiming to answer two key questions:

(1) How does spaceflight affect the metabolism of small metazoans like bdelloid rotifers?

(2) How does spaceflight affect the genome of bdelloids rotifers at single mutation and full genomic rearrangement levels?

The experiment samples are cultured inside culture bags enclosed inside Kayser’s KIC-Magnum NLA containers (of size ~1U) that allow oxygen exchange with the ISS environment. Internal frames have been designed to keep the bags correctly arranged with respect to the gravity vector during launch and to aid fast freezing after incubation on-board the ISS. The experiment hardware consisted of two containers with a total of 10 culture bags, each containing 20ml of liquid with the life samples and nutrients, and an interface plate to the KUBIK incubator. The samples are incubated for 7 days at ~15°C, then transferred to MELFI facility for freezing at -80°C and downloaded frozen.


Rotifer-B1 was uploaded to the ISS in December 2019 and returned to Earth for analysis in early 2020.

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