Midbrain organoids from the interdisciplinary BRAINS project have successfully launched towards the International Space Station. After more than a year of intense preparation, the team of five students from the University of Luxembourg watched the launch of their experiment on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket live at the Kennedy Space Centre.

Once docked to the ISS, the experiment operates fully autonomously without intervention from the busy astronauts.

The BRAINS (Biological Research using Artificial Intelligence for Neuroscience in Space) project aims to understand the growth of midbrain 3D cell cultures, also called organoids, in microgravity and is the first scientific experiment from Luxembourg to be conducted on the ISS. “We hope that our organoids will grow larger and less densely packed in the microgravity on the ISS”, explains Daniela.

We are trying to gain further insights into neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.

Apart from the biological aspect of the experiment, mainly performed by Elisa Zuccoli and Daniela Vega Gutiérrez at the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB), the team required extensive expertise in the field of space robotics from the Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust (SnT). Once docked to the ISS and connected to a power source, the experiment must operate fully autonomously without intervention from the busy astronauts.

For this, José Delgado, Aelyn Chong Castro and Lina María Amaya Mejía developed the “CUBE LAB”, an automated miniature laboratory that regularly supplies the cell cultures with fresh nutrients and maintains a stable temperature of 37°C allowing them to hopefully grow into more complex structures than on Earth.

“Being able to launch our experiment to the ISS is an amazing opportunity and I’m extremely proud of what the team has achieved over the last year,” exclaims Elisa, leader of the BRAINS team.

Full article by Uni.lu here: https://wwwen.uni.lu/research/highlights/

Photo credit: ©Elisa Zuccoli