NASA's SpaceX Dragon cargo freighter, which is loaded with approximately 5,000 pounds of scientific experiments from the International Space Station, is making its return to earth next week. On board is data from an oral care experiment that could support development of novel treatments to fight cavities, gingivitis and periodontitis.
The study was designed to look at how gravity affects the structure, composition and activity of oral bacteria in the presence of common oral care agents.
According to NASA, the study is of broad interest to many oral care applications as the oral microbiome constitutes a symbiotic community that, under a dysbiotic state, can lead to disease. This investigation provides the molecular characterization of a healthy and diseased oral microbiome. Furthermore, the susceptibility of dysbiotic communities to therapeutic intervention aimed at shifting the plaque community from a dysbiotic state towards a healthier one are to be identified. Insights from these studies lead to the design of novel treatment strategies against caries, gingivitis and periodontitis. The potential learning from this project may also expand beyond the oral cavity with implications into other mucosal surfaces in the body.
The principal investigators are Carlo Daep, PhD and Harsh Trivedi of Colgate-Palmolive Company. Luciana Rinaudi-Marron, PhD of Colgate-Palmolive is a co-investigator/collaborator.
“Effect of Environmental Stressors on Oral Biofilm Growth and Treatment (Oral Biofilms in Space)” studies the effect of gravity on the behavior of oral bacteria, including the structure of the bacterial community, and changes in bacterial response to common oral care agents. The investigation also could provide insights into how microgravity affects the microbiome of other mucosal surfaces in the body.
Effect of Environmental Stressors on Oral Biofilm Growth and Treatment (Oral Biofilms in Space) cultures biofilms in an established ex-vivo microfluidic device that simulates dental plaque growth on an enamel surface under microgravity conditions over a period of two days. A concurrent biofilm study is performed on Earth as a comparative control. The microfluidic devices are inoculated with saliva derived from patients who are either healthy, with periodontitis, or with active caries lesions. This protocol allows investigators to identify potentially unique biofilm pathologies dependent on oral health states; the impact of gravity on the exacerbation of microbiome dysbiosis (microbial imbalance); and the relative response to common oral care agents (zinc and/or arginine).
Other experiments onboard the returning ship are Lyophilization-2, which examines how gravity affects freeze-dried materials and could result in improved freeze-drying processes for pharmaceutical and other industries, and Molecular Muscle Experiment-2, which tests a series of drugs to see whether they can improve health in space, possibly leading to new therapeutic targets for examination on Earth.
SpaceX Dragon is scheduled to depart Tuesday, July 6, bound for a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean on July 8.
Ground controllers at SpaceX in Hawthorne, CA, will command Dragon to undock from the space-facing port on the station's Harmony module. NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough will monitor aboard the station.
Live coverage of the departure will begin at 10:45 a.m. EDT Tuesday, July 6, on NASA Television, the agency's website, and the NASA app. NASA says it will not provide coverage of the splashdown.