ASAcampus involved once again in an experiment that will take place on the International Space Station

19 May 2022 - Research -

After having participated in the CORM experiment (2017) and in the XENOGRISS experiment (2019), researchers Dr Monica Monici and Dr Francesca Cialdai of the ASAcampus Joint Laboratory – born from the partnership between the Research Division of ASA and the Department of Experimental and Clinical Biomedical Sciences ‘Mario Serio’ of the University of Florence – are taking part in the experiment ‘SUTURE in SPACE’, which will take place on the International Space Station (ISS) during the Minerva mission with Samantha Cristoforetti, Italian astronaut of the European Space Agency.

The experiment, selected by the European Space Agency in the ESA-ILSRA2014 call and with the support of the Italian Space Agency (C-ASI N. 2018-14-U.0-Suture in Space), aims to study the process of surgical wound healing in space. In future interplanetary space missions, any surgical emergencies, injuries, burns, and traumas will have to be managed aboard space vehicles or bases, because medical evacuation times to Earth would be too long. The wound healing process is crucial for the survival of the organism, so it is necessary to study it in the typical conditions of the space environment, that is, in microgravity. 

The hardware and biological samples needed to carry out the experiment will be prepared and integrated at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) laboratories in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and transferred to the ISS with the SpX-25 (Cargo Dragon 2) launch scheduled for 7 June 2022.

The team that will prepare the experiment at KSC consists of Dr Monica Monici, scientific coordinator of the experiment (PI), Dr Francesca Cialdai, Dr Chiara Risaliti, and two surgeons: Dr Desirèe Pantalone of the Department of Experimental and Clinical Medicine, University of Florence, and Dr Marco Bernini of the Careggi University Hospital..

The realization of the SUTURE in SPACE experiment was made possible by a multidisciplinary research lasting seven years with the collaboration of many researchers from the departments of: Experimental and Clinical Biomedical Sciences ‘Mario Serio’ and Experimental and Clinical Medicine, both of the University of Florence; Life Sciences, University of Siena; Pharmacological and Biomolecular Sciences, University of Milan; Health Sciences, University of Molise; Biomedicine Pharmacology and Space Medicine, Aarhus University; VU University Medical Centre, University of Amsterdam; Space Biology Group, Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts. Surgeons from the Breast Unit and the Vascular and Cardiovascular Surgery Units of the Careggi University Hospital also took part in the project activities. 

The hardware, which allows the experiment to be carried out in automation on the ISS, was developed by Kayser Italia, Livorno, and OHB, Bremen, Germany.

The study of the wound healing process in microgravity conditions will help better understand the mechanisms of tissue repair and regeneration and identify therapeutic strategies for wound management both in space and on Earth. During the studies for the realization of the experiment, an ex-vivo biological tissue culture technique was developed that allows tissue survival for a few weeks and could have various applications in the biomedical field.

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