13 October 2016

PromISS : Protein Microscope for International Space Station

Realization of digital holographic microscopes for the International Space Station to monitor the crystallization processes.
Start/end dates
January 2002 – December 2006
The Protein Crystallization Experiment PromISS was performed four times (PromISS 1, 2, 3, 4) aboard the International Space Station (ISS) with an innovative digital holographic microscope designed at the MRC. This experiment was conducted for the first time in October 2002 during the Odissea mission of ESA Belgian astronaut Frank de Winne. The protein equipment to be tested was forwarded for each mission to the station by Progress supply ships. The various PromISS missions have been activated in ESA's Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) facility. PromISS-3, completed in March 2004 - set the record of 31 days for a scientific activity in the ISS.

Proteins are key elements in the biological chain. They are found in the functioning of every living organism. In order to better understand the roles of proteins, researchers make crystals to understand and improve the processes of their growth. The formation of crystals takes place more easily in space than on Earth because the phenomenon is not influenced by gravity. The study of these crystals grown in space was ultimately intended to contribute to the design of new drugs.

Thanks to the Belgian Space Aeronautics Institute (IASB), the Belgian scientists responsible for the experiment were in direct contact with the space station. They were able to communicate any adaptation or modification necessary for the adequate running of the experiments via the tele-operation center of the Belgian User Support and Operation Center (B.USOC) and its partner Space Application Services. The scientists in charge of the experiment were Ingrid Zegers (VUB) for the scientific analysis and Frank Dubois for the instrumentation (Microgravity Research Center).

Zegers, I., Carotenuto, L., Evrard, C., Garcia-Ruiz, J., De Gieter, P., Gonzales-Ramires, L., Istasse, E., Legros, J. C., Martial, J., Minetti, C., Otalora, F., Queeckers, P., Schockaert, C., VandeWeerdt, C., Willaert, R., Wyns, L., Yourassowsky, C., & Dubois, F. (2006). Counterdiffusion protein crystallisation in microgravity and its observation with PromISS (Protein Microscope for the International Space Station). Microgravity, science and technology, 18(3-4), 165-169.