Texas Tech University

Engineering Professor's Research Headed to International Space Station

Amanda Bowman

February 9, 2021

In a NASA teleconference this week, Siva Vanapalli will discuss his investigation studying muscle strength changes in worms to help better understand muscle weakening that astronauts can experience in microgravity.

Siva Vanapalli
Siva Vanapalli

Resupplying the International Space Station (ISS) is no easy task. It takes a plethora of individuals to make it happen. Siva Vanapalli, the Bryan Pearce Bagley Regents Chair and a professor of chemical engineering in Texas Tech University's Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering, is one such individual helping NASA achieve this goal.

Vanapalli's Micro-16 research studies muscle strength changes in worms, known as C. elegans, to help better understand muscle weakening that astronauts can experience in microgravity. C. elegans, a one-millimeter roundworm, is a powerful model organism used to investigate fundamental biological processes conserved across species.

"Our collaborative effort has led to the development of a microfluidic device for measuring muscle strength in this tiny worm," Vanapalli said. "This ISS experiment is unique since more than 100,000 images of worms from seven generations will be collected and analyzed to not only understand short-term adaptation of muscles to microgravity and radiation but also potential transgenerational effects."

Vanapalli's work eventually could lead to the slowing down or prevention of muscle loss in astronauts in the future. He will discuss his role in further detail during NASA's teleconference scheduled for Thursday (Feb. 11) at noon CST.

The launch of the Cygnus spacecraft to resupply the ISS is currently scheduled to take place no earlier than 11:36 p.m. CST on Feb. 20. The Cygnus will carry crew supplies, scientific research (including the C. elegans) and hardware to the orbiting laboratory to support the Expedition 64 and 65 crews.

Click here for information on how to watch the teleconference.

Click here to read more about Vanapalli's research.