First-Ever Space Virus Hunter Kate Rubins Embarks On Microgravity DNA Research

First Posted: Jul 19, 2016 03:21 AM EDT

Space virus hunter Kate Rubins is now ready for her cosmic, new DNA research. She is a newcomer astronaut who is purposed to complete the first full-blown DNA decoding or sequencing in orbit by using a device called MinION.

The "Space Virus Hunter" said in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday that the team is interested on how the device works in microgravity because it has never been done before.

Rubins said that through the new research, bone loss and microbial changes in space will be better understood. According to her, "Altogether, it's an extremely exciting research package and a great capability on board station. When we do things in a remote environment up here, we can understand how these technologies might work in remote places on Earth that don't have access to good medical care."

Rubins has been to Congo for a research before she became an astronaut. She wore biosafety suits when doing a research about Ebola, smallpox, and fatal viruses but this practice is different from space. She will be working with harmless space virus as test samples. She said that she had a lot of safety folks on the ground that assures her safety while on board.

Sarah Wallace, a microbiologist at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, said that researchers initially wanted to use extreme and bizarre samples, but finally decided to well-sequenced, well-understood genomes for easy comparison, World Now reported. All control tests will be done on Earth with aquanauts who will go in an underwater habitat next week off the coast of Key Largo, Florida.

Rubins arrived at the space station with a Russian and Japanese co-astronauts for a four-month stay. They were launched from Kazakhstan using a Russian rocket.

Meanwhile, MinION is a miniaturized biomolecule sequencer. It is less than 4 inches long and just 4 ounces including a USB cable. The MinION is also connected to a laptop or electronic tablet and will  stay on board for possible further use, AZ Daily Sun reported.

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