of today Israel has launched four space life-science experiments
aboard NASA space shuttles, the last three of them were conducted
by IAMI researchers. All four projects were under the patronage
of the Israel Space Agency and brought together Israel’s leading
professionals in the fields of medicine and biology. New research
projects are constantly being developed and prepared for future
1992 Space Shuttle Endeavor (STS-47)
- Tel-Aviv University.
Hornet Experiment was based on the Oriental hornet, which
has a unique ability to build its comb in the direction of
gravity (terrestrial studies have shown that it is the only
factor that determines the direction a comb is built). The
experiment investigated the effects of microgravity on the
hornets, their physical and physiological development and
their nest-building instincts. The ultimate goal of the project
was to discover how to prevent astronauts from suffering headaches,
nausea, vomiting and weakness during missions. These symptoms
are thought to be caused by disorientation due to lack of
gravity perception and are obstacles to sending people to
space stations or on extended trips to other planets.
experiment was launched on STS-47, but after the launch a
malfunction in the water system caused an abnormal increase
in humidity, culminating in the death of 202 hornets (out
of 230) and the death of 103 pupae (out of 120). The hornets
that survived lost their sense of direction, and unlike the
hornets in the control unit they did not climb on the walls
or stay in clusters but rather they stayed motionless and
apart from each other. They started to climb on the walls
and build nests only 3-4 days after their return to Earth.
The longevity of those hornets was shorter and they lived
for an average of 23 days instead of 43 days like the control
hornets. In addition, the pupae that flew in space did not
complete their metamorphosis.
development of mice embryos in microgravity
1996 Space Shuttle Columbia
(STS-80) - IAMI and The Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical
the 1970's Hebrew University scientists found that gravity
is a major factor in the development of mammalian embryos.
What would happen to their growth in the absence of gravity?
It was against this background that the mouse embryo project
experiment was designed to determine if mice embryo cells
could develop normally in microgravity conditions in space.
Final results were expected to give a better understanding
of basic principles of early embryo development and provide
insight into the possibilities of human reproduction in space.
experimental payload contained 2-cell and 8-cell mice embryos
that continued to grow in culture media throughout the space
flight. After Columbia landed, the experimental embryos were
compared with similar ones grown at the same time on Earth.
embryos that were exposed to microgravity stopped growing
and did not reach the stage at which they'd have implanted
in the uterus in normal development. In contrast, the Earth-based
control embryos had grown normally. The stage at which the
mouse embryos stopped growing was when the central axis or
neural tube that runs down the middle of the mammal develops.
Research had suggested that the growth of this axis is controlled
by gravity, and it may be key to understanding early neural
defects in mammals.
of osteoblast cells in a microgravity environment
1996 Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-80)
- IAMI and The Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center,
astronauts have an extremely busy schedule while on a space
mission, yet an important part of their daily routine in space
includes lengthy and time consuming sport exercises aimed
at maintaining their bone and muscle mass. During long-duration
space missions astronauts may lose as much as 10% of their
bone and muscle. The reasons for this are numerous and include
a dysfunction of the bone cells (called osteoblasts) with
less building of new bone, increased breakdown of bone, and
the lack of the forces of gravity which on Earth help us maintain
our muscle tone and bone strength. The changes in the astronauts’
bones resemble osteoporosis, but they occur more rapidly and
while an individual on Earth loses 1-2% of bone per year,
it is estimated that the astronauts lose 1% to 2% of their
bone mass each month they are in space. Furthermore the osteoporosis
of space is not totally reversible. Therefore it is of great
importance to study and understand osteoblast function in
microgravity (the state of near weightlessness experienced
by Shuttle crews) and devise ways to counteract it. The clinical
applications of these counter-measures may then be used to
treat Earth-based osteoporosis, thus improving the quality
of life for many millions of people every year and saving
7 billion dollars in the USA alone that are spent yearly on
treatment and medical follow-up of osteoporosis induced fractures.
STS-80 osteoblast cultures were grown in microgravity, using
specialized hardware that was developed and sponsored by ITA
USA Inc. The space-grown osteoblastic cells were than compared
to osteoblastic cells grown on Earth. The research demonstrated
that osteoblasts exposed to microgravity experience many changes
when compared with cells grown on Earth. Cells exposed to
microgravity demonstrated a lower proliferation rate, a lower
metabolism and an altered cell structure.
Mediciation for of calcium loss develop in space
1998 Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-95)
- IAMI and The Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center,
research was a continuation and extension of the one conducted
on osteoblast cultures on STS-80. This space flight mission
was joined by 77-year-old astronaut John Glenn; the first
American astronaut to orbit Earth whom later became senator
of Ohio. The tests included examining the thinning effect
of space on mouse bones, a comparison of the process of calcium
loss in the mouse bone with what happens in Glenn's body and
the effectiveness of a calcium-vitamin D supplement against