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Gale Smith

Phone: 281.627.0439

gsmith@houstonmethodist.org


Center of Space Nanomedicine to work with CASIS on research aboard International Space Station
Houston - April 06, 2016
The Houston Methodist Research Institute’s newly created Center of Space Nanomedicine is working with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) to send eight experiments to the International Space Station (ISS) over the next five years. The first experiment launched on April 8. 

Led by Alessandro Grattoni, Ph.D., the Houston Methodist center focuses on the development and testing of technologies in four areas - diagnostic and therapeutic biomedical devices for precision medicine, nanotherapeutics for targeted drug delivery, regenerative medicine and tissue engineering. 

A microgravity experiment to study the diffusion of drug-like particles was the first scheduled project to launch aboard Space X-8 in 2016. The project is focused on mimicking on a larger scale the diffusion of drug molecules in nanochannels by adopting microparticles in microchannels (2-8 micrometers), where their movement will not be influenced by gravity, and their larger size will enable visualization through microscopes. Researchers still do not have a clear picture about the physics of how drug particles behave as they diffuse through tight nanospaces.

Grattoni’s team at Houston Methodist designed the experiment, in collaboration with scientists from BioServe Space Technologies at the University of Colorado at Boulder; Polytechnic of Turin, Italy; and NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

“Our ultimate goal is improving implantable devices that release pharmaceutical drugs at a steady rate,” said Grattoni, Department of Nanomedicine chair at Houston Methodist. "We want to develop a model that will make it easier to design delivery devices for any drug, and speed up the development of these technologies."

The microgravity experiment will physically be the size of a DVD case that houses numerous microchannels. The project will look at two things Grattoni and team believe play a major role in how particles suspended in an aqueous environment move through channels -- the relative size of particle to channel, as well as charge (plus/minus) interactions between the particle and channel. The fluorescent silicon particles will diffuse into a sink chamber. Photographs taken periodically with a fluorescent microscope will show the scientists how, and how quickly, the particles move, how charge gradients affect the particles, and the effects of size constraints.

The ISS U.S. National Laboratory is managed by CASIS in collaboration with NASA. Future experiments sent to the ISS will include a remotely controlled drug delivery implant, lung regeneration and an implantable nanochannel system for the controlled delivery of therapeutics for muscle atrophy in collaboration with the pharmaceutical company Novartis.

To speak with Alessandro Grattoni, Ph.D., contact Gale Smith, Houston Methodist, at 281.627.0439 or gsmith@houstonmethodist.org. For more information about Houston Methodist, visit houstonmethodist.org. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.