“Speaking in front of such experts was a nerve-racking experience” said Sergi “but after 3 years of research we were confident about our results.”
Sergi and Arnau first started the project when they were studying medicine and mechanics respectively at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) and the Catalan Polytechnic University (UPC). They continued as trainees for two Spanish reference centres: the IMIM and the Fundació CIM where they were eventually contracted.
“Developing a machine that would respond to both the medical and microgravity specifications was a challenge”, explains Arnau. “We were lucky to catch the attention of two manufacturing experts: Schneider Electric and the Fundació CIM [a technological centre of the UPC] who supported us throughout the process”.
The team was selected by the European Space Agency to conduct their experiment in Microgravity on board of parabolic flights used for the training of astronauts. There, they tested how the ABC transporters, the biological agents responsible for removing drugs and other toxins from human cells, reacted under microgravity conditions.
The result of their experiment showed that the activity of the ABC transporters in the samples that underwent microgravity was 20times lower than in the samples from the earth.
This finding is significant since it explains in part the reason why medications do not affect astronauts in the same way when they are on earth as when they are in microgravity.
“When we started the project, no one wanted to invest money in it, we never imagined that we would end up shaking hands with the likes of Charles Bolden [the current Administrator of NASA, a retired United States Marine Corps major general, and former NASA astronaut] and sharing experiences with Caddie [Catherine Coleman: astronaut in the International Space Station]!”
Following the presentation, the young investigators have been approached to conduct further research on the exact mechanisms behind these differences and the way to work around them.
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The Fundació Centre CIM is situated in the Technological Park of Barcelona and is distinguished as a reference centre in areas related to Manufacturing technologies, developing technological transfer projects, research and formation for industries.
The Foundation was created in 2005, as the final culmination of the transformation of the ancient Centre CIM, which was made in 1990 by UPC (Polytechnic University of Catalonia) and ICT (Catalan Technological Institute) with the mission of aiding professionals to improve their technology and innovative capacity in the field of Production Technologies.