Dubai: The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), in partnership with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), announced on Thursday (June 22, 2023) the beginning of the innovative Protein Crystal Growth Experiment (PCG) on board the Kibo module on the International Space Station (ISS) by Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi.
The experiment was launched on the recent Space X-28 cargo mission, and was installed by Al Neyadi on June 7, marking a crucial milestone in the enduring UAE-Japan collaboration.
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UAE’s contribution to space science
Adnan Al Rais, manager, UAE Astronaut Programme, said: “This initiative represents a significant achievement in UAE’s contribution to global space science. It underscores our commitment to strengthening international scientific partnerships and propelling our understanding of complex biological systems for the betterment of humanity.”
The experiment theme was proposed by a research team from the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) in the UAE in collaboration with the Harvard Medical School in the USA and in compliance with a collaborative agreement between the UAE Space Agency, MBRSC and JAXA.
What is it about?
The PCG experiment is focused on the protein molecule GIRK2 (G-protein-gated inwardly rectifying potassium).
This molecule is instrumental in controlling heart rate and has connections with several serious conditions, including epilepsy, cardiac arrhythmias, and addiction.
UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi played a pivotal role in the experiment by installing the Protein Crystal Growth Experiment (PCG) samples into JAXA’s experimental equipment in the Kibo module on the International Space Station (ISS).
The objective of developing high-quality crystals of GIRK2 is to enhance our comprehension of its structure. This knowledge will be invaluable in guiding the creation of treatments targeted at conditions influenced by this molecule.
Al Neyadi played a pivotal role in the experiment by installing the PCG samples into JAXA’s experimental equipment in Kibo. This phase required precision and expertise to ensure the viability of the samples for the duration of the experiment.
After approximately one month aboard the ISS, the experiment will reach its next stage. The sample will return to Earth for X-ray diffraction data collection in Japan.
This data will then be provided to the UAE research team for further analysis, continuing the cycle of international collaboration.
Research and development
Over the course of the past three months, Al Neyadi along with his Expedition 69 crew members have made significant strides in microgravity research, featuring a range of pioneering scientific investigations, including on cardiovascular system, plant biology, material science, fluid science and sleep analysis, among others.
The UAE Astronaut Programme is one of the projects managed by MBRSC under the UAE’s National Space Programme and funded by the ICT Fund of the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA), which aims to support research and development in the ICT sector in the UAE and promote the country’s integration on the global stage.