The new study, part of NASA’s Genes in Space high school science outreach program, will test a technique to reproduce and analyze telomeres in space.
“The holy grail for this sort of thing is a platform where we can do these kinds of investigations on the space station in real time in orbit without having to send stuff back and forth,” said Julian Rubinfien, a junior at New York’s Stuyvesant High School, whose experiment was the 2016 winner of the Genes in Space competition.
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Initially, the experiment will test a technique to reproduce, or amplify, repetitive telomere sequences. The samples will be returned to Earth for analysis. Ultimately, scientists would like to amplify and then analyze telomeres on the station using a portable DNA sequencer that flew for the first time last year.
Insight into what is happening on a molecular level to the telomeres will not only help scientists better prepare astronauts for multi-year missions to Mars, Ruttley noted, but also shed light on the aging process and diseases that naturally occur on Earth.