Sultan AlNeyadi -MBR Space centre-1685708578289
Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi shares his photo from the International Space Station (ISS). He will use protein samples shipped from the UAE for a ground breaking space experiment to create and improve medicines Image Credit: MBRSC

Dubai: Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi, who is on the longest Arab space mission on-board the International Space Station (ISS), will use protein samples shipped from the UAE for a ground breaking space experiment to create and improve medicines, Gulf News can reveal.

The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in Dubai, the space agency behind the UAE Astronaut Programme, has shared an image of Al Neyadi setting up the hardware for the Monoclonal Antibodies Protein Crystal Growth-2 experiment on the ISS.

“The experiment analyses [the] process of crystallising biotherapeutics in microgravity, potentially improving production and shortening [the] development cycle for new medicines,” MBRSC said in its social media post.

Monoclonal antibodies are drugs made from large, complex molecules taken from living organisms such as microbes or human or animal cells.

The protein crystallisation growth experiment or the PCG experiment, is one of the most important scientific experiments assigned to Al Neyadi by UAE universities, a senior official with MBRSC told Gulf News.

Adnan Al Rais, mission manager, UAE Astronaut Mission 2, said Al Neyadi would be employing protein samples shipped from the UAE for this experiment.

“Universities in the UAE prepared these protein samples to conduct the space experiments on the ISS,” said Al Rais.

“This is [a] very unique [experiment] in this mission and we are doing it for the first time. Those proteins will be brought back to the Earth later and studied,” he explained.

MBRSC is working with Mohammed Bin Rashid University, Khalifa University and the New York University Abu Dhabi for the science experiments by Al Neyadi.

The experiment on the ISS will be conducted in cooperation with the Japanese Space Agency, JAXA.

How it works

According to Nasa, the Monoclonal Antibodies Protein Crystal Growth-2 experiment conducted on the ISS aims to advance the understanding of protein structures and develop new treatments for various diseases.

It focuses on growing and studying protein crystals in microgravity. Protein crystals grown in space have been found to be more uniform and larger than those grown on Earth. The higher quality crystals allow for more precise analysis of protein structures.

This research aims to gain detailed knowledge of protein structures, which is crucial for designing effective drugs and treatments.

It has led to the discovery of potential drugs for conditions such as tuberculosis, muscular dystrophy, breast cancer, and gum disease.

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Apart from creating new drugs, the PCG research on the ISS has the potential to improve drug formulations, making them easier to store and administer.

By providing a platform for such experiments, Nasa said, the ISS contributes to advancements in medical research and the development of better treatments for various diseases on Earth.

Nasa SpaceX Crew-6 members including Al Neyadi, who are now part of the Expedition 69 on the ISS, together would be conducting over 200 experiments during their six-month space odyssey that began in March.

Al Neyadi has been assigned 19 major scientific experiments from the UAE. The fields of experiments include: cardiovascular system, epigenetics, plant biology, radiation, back pain, immune system, materials science, sleep analysis, fluid science and technical demonstration.