Advanced light microscopy for biological space research
Faculty of Pharmaceutical, Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences . Biomedical Sciences
New York, N.Y.
The review of scientific instruments. - New York, N.Y.
, 14 p.
University of Antwerp
As commercial space flights have become feasible and long-term extraterrestrial missions are planned, it is imperative that the impact of space travel and the space environment on human physiology be thoroughly characterized. Scrutinizing the effects of potentially detrimental factors such as ionizing radiation and microgravity at the cellular and tissue level demands adequate visualization technology. Advanced light microscopy (ALM) is the leading tool for non-destructive structural and functional investigation of static as well as dynamic biological systems. In recent years, technological developments and advances in photochemistry and genetic engineering have boosted all aspects of resolution, readout and throughput, rendering ALM ideally suited for biological space research. While various microscopy-based studies have addressed cellular response to space-related environmental stressors, biological endpoints have typically been determined only after the mission, leaving an experimental gap that is prone to bias results. An on-board, real-time microscopical monitoring device can bridge this gap. Breadboards and even fully operational microscope setups have been conceived, but they need to be rendered more compact and versatile. Most importantly, they must allow addressing the impact of gravity, or the lack thereof, on physiologically relevant biological systems in space and in ground-based simulations. In order to delineate the essential functionalities for such a system, we have reviewed the pending questions in space science, the relevant biological model systems, and the state-of-the art in ALM. Based on a rigorous trade-off, in which we recognize the relevance of multi-cellular systems and the cellular microenvironment, we propose a compact, but flexible concept for space-related cell biological research that is based on light sheet microscopy.