Developing additional functionality will likely require a new assessment in terms of which technology can be incorporate into AstroBio. We plan to apply a set of software criteria to evaluate available solutions. The criteria will include features, price, and any other aspects deem relevant by the team. We will group the criteria according to important to our project and assign a score to ensure the evaluation is easier.
AstroBio Release Kick-Off
We will start by migrating our software to a new domain www.astrobio.ca. This will allow us to increase name recognition, and generate interest from the scientific community as well as the general public. To get the word out there about AstroBio, we would work with our Media Sponsors. We will also be developing a technical AstroBio whitepaper document to describe how AstroBio will help microgravity researchers in their research. This document will be specifically geared to show users that we understand their goals, motivations, and frustrations, describe AstroBio, and explain why AstroBio is the best choice when it comes to supporting the goals of microgravity researchers.
Potential Media Sponsors include: The Canadian Space Agency (CSA), an organization which has a strong history of supporting microgravity research. Moreover, Canada is an International Space Station (ISS) Partner and the CSA also plans to contribute to microgravity research onboard ISS (Buckley & Johnson-Green). The CSA is also developing a program of ISS utilization that includes regular solicitation of the best scientific proposals from the Canadian microgravity research community, with focus on the fields of material science, fluid dynamics, combustion, and biotechnology (Buckley & Johnson-Green).
Other potential Media Sponsors include the Canadian Space Society (CSS), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), among others.
After the release kick-off, we will send out surveys to end-users to collect and identify new process and features that can be included in the next release of AstroBio. By continuing to work with experts such as Dr. Richard Barker and other users, we will continue to identify further improvements.
For upcoming AstroBio releases, we plan to further emphasize Usability Testing, also know as known as User Experience (UX) Testing. In order to increase the number of AstroBio users, we believe it is important to ensure our web application remains user friendly, provides flexibility, and gives microgravity researchers the ability to meet their research needs.
We will be developing a comprehensive Usability Testing Plan that mainly concentrates on the following key criteria:
Criteria #1: Accuracy
Greater number of studies available to end users.
No outdated or incorrect data, or broken study links.
Criteria #2: Effectiveness
Is AstroBio easy to learn?
How much value are new features adding to the end users?
Have the new features been implemented in a way that is aesthetically pleasing?
Criteria #3: Efficiency
Advanced options within AstroBio where applicable.
Straight forward navigation to reach the desired information.
Uniformity in the presentation of studies.
Criteria #4: User Friendliness
Controls and new features should be self-explanatory and require minimum to no training for users to understand how they work.
Lastly, we will be checking that all the work has been completed, and that AstroBio continues to met its objectives. Part of the actions that will satisfy project completion would include: retesting major features and added functionality, ensuring all the documentation and deliverables are up-to-date and monitoring stakeholder satisfaction, and identifying lessons learned.
Given the nature of our project, AstroYeast, as a foundational advancement by iGEM's standards, there are many applications for our microgravity tolerant yeast strains. The target market for our product are microgravity researchers, namely those that focus their research on the biomanufacturing of pharmaceuticals, nutrients, and materials in microgravity.
In space, there are physiological stressors that exist that are not present on Earth, namely increased radiation, and the presence of microgravity. This proves to be a hurdle for the growth and viability of microorganisms, along with being a source for developmental issues in humans and other complex organisms. This being said, microorganisms that are typically used on Earth for bioproduction may not be able to maintain their efficiency in space, due to changes in gene expression (Sheehan, McInnerney, Purevdorj-Gage, Altenburg, & Hyman, 2007). This proves to be a serious issue for long-term space travel, as bioproduction is a convenient solution to the problem of transport of materials and goods in space, mostly from a cost standpoint (Menezes, Cumbers, Hogan, & Arkin, 2015). In theory, microgravity resistant strains of microorganisms alleviate microgravity as a stressor, allowing for the proper growth of cells, with the retained efficiency seen on Earth.
However, as with many lab-grown organisms, there are serious issues with biosafety. In our experiments, the only modifications to Saccharomyces cerevisiae, is the addition of promoters already found in yeast lab strains, along with a fluorescent reporter and a terminator. The yeast will also undergo adaptive evolution, with microgravity as a stressor, and seeing as the nature of adaptive evolution is random, and unspecific, the yeast has the potential to develop pathogenicity (Phadke, et al., 2018) or an increased tolerance for toxins or antibiotics. This would cause it to be a possible environmental hazard that would need a kill switch to avoid propagation. The kill switch could be typical selection techniques such as antibiotics, for example.
AstroYeast would be used as a chassis for the biomanufacturing of various products in microgravity. This being said, it would be used primarily by researchers focused on the biomanufacturing of products in space, along with those in space who would be using the yeast directly- astronauts. Researchers on Earth would use the strains for the preliminary research needed to develop systems designed for space. Biomanufacturers would do the same. Both groups would need to develop, or at least use preexisting microgravity simulating machinery, to ensure that their findings are consistent with what they would be in space. In space, initially the large-scale manufacturing of goods would be limited due to the sheer space needed to do so, along with the limited need, as early missions would likely have similarly sized crews to current missions, meaning a limited amount of people.
As space exploration becomes more sophisticated with missions becoming larger and ship and space station designs beginning to allow for the accommodation of bioreactor production, there would be a niche for biomanufacturers to fulfill. Likewise, as already well-established bioreactor and fermentation technology advances, small and more manageable bioreactors will make supplies more accessible to the crews and habitats. There has been a lot of research done regarding bioreactors tailored for space, which would be small and take up less space (Cortesão, Schütze, Marx, Moeller, & Meyer, 2020).
The development of these strains is one thing, but for researchers to use them, they must first hear about them. Online platforms such as AddGene allow for the sharing of genetic constructs that would allow for other researchers and manufacturers to find and replicate the strain. Publications based on our strain would also increase its notoriety. Hopefully these methods, along with traditional word-of-mouth would be enough for AstroYeast strains to be widely used in appropriate communities.
"Yeast is great for the scale up process because you don't have to go and invent a new bioreactor. That's a huge technology risk, that's a huge length of time to develop that. Huge amounts of engineering and money and capital to make that happen."
Scot Bryson-CEO and Founder of Orbital Farms
Human Practices interview with Scot
Next year our microgravity simulator design will be available as open source to other iGEM teams and anyone working on a microgravity study. They will be able to create their own microgravity simulator from our design, compare their results to ours and other related study types in the field. The design will be low cost to assure it is as accessible as possible.
Cortesão, M., Schütze, T., Marx, R., Moeller, R., & Meyer, V. (2020). Fungal Biotechnology in Space: Why and How? Grand Challenges in Fungal Biotechnology, 501-535.
Menezes, A., Cumbers, J., Hogan, J., & Arkin, A. (2015). Towards synthetic biological approaches to resource utilization on space missions. Journal of the Royal Society Interface.
Phadke, S., Maclean, C., Zhao, S., Mueller, E., Michelotti, L., Norman, K., . . . James, T. (2018). Genome-Wide Screen for Saccharomyces cerevisiae Genes Contributing to Opportunistic Pathogenicity in an Invertebrate Model Host. G3: Genes, Genomes, Geneics, 63-78.
Sheehan, K., McInnerney, K., Purevdorj-Gage, B., Altenburg, S., & Hyman, L. (2007). Yeast genomic expression patterns in response to low-shear modeled microgravity. BMC Genomics.
Buckley, N., & Johnson-Green, P. (n.d.). Microgravity Research in the Canadian Space Agency. Acta Astronautica, Volume 63, p. 35-37.
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