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Domains: cell culture non–adherent cells

This Experiment Unit is a device capable of performing automatic cell culture of non–adherent cells (i.e. cells that grow in suspension) in microgravity.

The KEU-RO Experiment Unit is a device capable of performing automatic cell culture of non–adherent cells (i.e. cells that grow in suspension) in microgravity. It is equipped with reservoirs for chemicals (culture medium, fixatives) and a culture chamber allowing cell growth in suspension. The scientific protocol is led by the KEU-RO electronics following a predefined timeline. At the end of the experiment the ROALD Experiment Unit can be stowed at controlled temperatures, down to -80°C. After stowage and re-entry on Earth, cell cultures can be analyzed with molecular biology-based approaches for genomic, transcriptomic and proteomic studies or cytofluorimetry.

  • Fluidic systems: 4
  • Fluidic actuators: 3 each fluidic system (6 in total with shared activation)
  • Fluidic actuators: type PLUNGERS
  • Fluidic reservoirs: 2 each fluidic system (8 in total)
  • Culture chambers: 1 each fluidic system (4 in total)
  • Levels of Containment (LoC): 1
  • Fluidic System Volume: ask for information
  • Automatic control: YES
  • On-Board Electronic Controller: YES (with internal Clock & Timeline)
  • Experiment Unit size: ≈ 82x39x19 mm
  • Experiment Unit mass: ≈ 72 grams (fully assembled)
  • Fits into: KIC-SL (1 LoC)
  • Compatible Controller: NOT REQUIRED (on-board controller)

So far, the KEU-RO Experiment Unit has been used to study cell growth on lymphocytes.

Each KEU-RO Experiment Unit (EU) is made of a semi-crystalline thermoplastic polymer with excellent mechanical and chemical resistance properties, biologically inert. Cross contamination among the fluids chambers are avoided due to proper sealing gaskets. The EU itself provides one Level of Containment (LoC) that is increased to two by using KIC-SL containers class. The experiment is fully autonomous; all the actions are electrically controlled by a predefined timeline uploaded into the on-board microcontroller. Housekeeping data are recorded during the mission and downloaded at re-entry.

The typical fluidic concept carries out the KEU-RO experimental protocol which relies on three main steps, i.e. T-lymphocytes activation, T-lymphocytes incubation, T-lymphocytes fixation. On the whole, the actions performed by the fluidic system are led by preloaded spring actuators activated by the control electronics. Such mechanism pushes the pistons inward displacing the fluids (Activator or Fixative) contained into the chemicals reservoirs (Activator or Fixative reservoir) towards the Culture Chamber (CC). Each CC is provided with a floating piston to allow an expandable volume for fluid injections. Short channels connect independently the reservoirs to the CCs so that cells are activated or fixed (see figures below).

Qualified for:
Manned Flight Carrier (Soyuz) and Manned Flights – Use on ISS

  • 2008 ROALD PI: Mauro Maccarrone (University of Teramo)
  • 2011 RESLEM PI: Natalia Battista (University of Teramo)



International Space Station



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Timeframe estimation

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