If you’re doing proteomics in a zero-gravity phone booth, you don’t want a lot of nasty chemical reagents sloshing around. So NASA awarded Ciencia a grant to develop a compact, high-throughput proteomics analyzer that doesn’t use radioactive or fluorescent tags. Ciencia will incorporate Quantech’s Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR) technology into an instrument suitable for the International Space Station.
In SPR, light hitting a surface at a particular wavelength and angle couples with surface electrons, cutting reflected light by about 90 percent. But if something binds to the surface, it changes this resonance point. Researchers fix different antibodies to a surface, expose them to a stream of antigens, and use an optical detector to determine where binding occurred. NASA hopes such zero-gravity experiments will give a better understanding of how life began and yield new techniques for cell and tissue manipulation.
— Sherri Chasin Calvo