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Real Life Nerds: High School Student Sends Genetic Experiment to the ISS

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to carry the Dragon module on a resupply mission to the International Space Station today. In addition to food and supplies, the Dragon spacecraft includes 17-year-old Anna-Sophia Boguraev’s Genes in Space experiment.

Using a miniPCR DNA analysis system, Boguraev's experiment is designed to establish whether genetic changes to DNA and the weakened immune systems observed in astronauts are linked, a first step in safeguarding astronaut health in long duration missions, such as future Mars missions. Her experiment may open the door to detecting immune system alterations in space, as well as assessing astronaut health during space flight including genetic changes that could lead to cancer, neurological disorders, and developmental abnormalities. This will be one of the first experiments to use advanced DNA detection technologies in orbit.

The miniPCR kit will remain on board for future research projects. The machine’s portability, given its small mass and footprint, makes it ideally suited for DNA analysis on the ISS.

The Genes in Space contest is a US and UAE STEM competition that challenges students in grades 7 through 12 to propose DNA experiments that could solve space exploration problems using the unique environment of the ISS. The annual competition is currently accepting student research projects until April 20th. To learn more, visit GenesInSpace.org

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