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A nano satellite of the Israeli Spice Pharma will be launched this week for joint medical experiments by researchers from Israel and Italy

This week Space Pharma's Dido-3 satellite will be launched with medical experiments from Israel and Italy on it * Space Pharma CEO Yossi Yamin: "The next satellite may test drugs for Corona" * Dido-3 is the first satellite outside of manned spacecraft that keeps a person's temperature for a whole week , despite the extreme environments in which the satellite operates

The Dido-3 satellite. Image: Spice Pharma Company
The Dido-3 satellite. Image: Spice Pharma Company

This week Space Pharma's Dido-3 nanosatellite, which is a medical laboratory platform in space, will be launched. The satellite is a joint project of the Israel Space Agency in the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Italian Space Agency. The satellite will carry medical experiments from Israel and Italy. The experiments were planned long before the outbreak of the corona crisis, but according to the CEO of Space Pharma, Yossi Yamin, says in an interview with the scientist website that in recent days the company has received requests from American government bodies to build a similar satellite that will test in space conditions medicines or other solutions that will help in the fight against the corona virus. However, these are initial contacts.
From the European Space Launch Base in Kourou in French Guiana, on top of a Vega type launcher.

The Israeli nanosatellite contains a tiny laboratory, DIDO-3, which was produced by the Spice Pharma company. The satellite includes four experiments in the fields of medicine, biology and chemistry that will provide new and ground-breaking information about diseases and their prevention - information that cannot be obtained under the existing gravity conditions on Earth. The miniaturized laboratory, whose temperature can be controlled in space, is operated autonomously. To date, experiments in zero gravity conditions are performed only on the International Space Station and are operated by astronauts. The development of Space Pharma, which is supported by the Israel Space Agency at the Ministry of Science and Technology, actually allows any scientist to conduct the experiment in an independent, accessible, safe and fully controlled manner from a distance, while the researcher is in a laboratory at a university or hospital.

The satellite contains a microscope camera, temperature gauges, air pressure and other devices required to verify the state of the experiments at any given moment. The experiments were designed by four teams of scientists in the two countries, and each medical experiment is partnered by an Israeli researcher and an Italian researcher. The Israeli institutions participating in the experiments: the Technion with 2 experiments, the Hebrew University and the Sheba Medical Center.

In a conversation with the science site, Yamin adds: "The Dido 3 satellite is an in-house development of Space Pharma and is based on a laboratory upgraded from the one we launched three years ago. The laboratory conducts four experiments and also allows some repetition of the experiments. The size of the satellite is 3.5 units, and it has deployable solar collectors. This is in contrast to the previous satellite whose receivers were glued to its sides. This feature will allow it to generate much more electrical power. For the first time in an unmanned satellite a constant temperature is maintained. In this case it is 37 degrees Celsius, simulating the body temperature of a healthy person, which is required for the experiments."
The system keeps the reagents in special cartridges at a unique temperature for each experiment and of course enables remote control of the activation of the event. All the experiments will be carried out from Israel and Italy and the products will be transferred to any scientist who wants it. This way it will be possible for Italians to work from home or from their smart phone and not come to work.

"We built the satellite quite quickly, but the launch was postponed twice, first because of an explosion that occurred on July 11 during an attempt to launch a launcher of the same model, and a second time because of the corona after the satellite was already on the launcher. We had to open it, clean and drain the fluids and change cartridges, a dangerous process at such a close stage to the launch."
Yamin emphasizes that the scientists were chosen in a regular process of winners in scientific competitions in Italy and Israel.

Details of researchers and studies:

  1. Prof. Giuseppe Fellini from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Bologna and Prof. Boaz Pokroi from the Faculty of Materials Science and Engineering at the Technion will investigate the effectiveness of antimicrobial substances under zero gravity conditions. During the experiment, the decomposition of bacteria by an enzyme will be monitored. This study is part of an effort to prevent infections in hospitals and infections carried on different surfaces.
  2. Prof. Alessandra DiMazzi from the University of Roma-Terra and Prof. Daniel Kornitzer from the Rapaport Faculty of Medicine at the Technion will perform an experiment on albumin, which is an important protein found in the blood and transports various important molecules such as fatty acids, hormones, drugs and more. An experiment will test how drugs are absorbed by albumin, one of the main proteins in the blood, under conditions of zero gravity.
  3. Prof. Alessandro Desideri from the Faculty of Biology at the University of Tor Vergata - Rome and Prof. Itamar Willner from the Hebrew University will examine the "folding" phenomenon of DNA molecules. This phenomenon, related to the mechanism of cell division and protection of the genetic load from damage, may help in the study of aging processes as well as in the prevention of cancerous processes.
  4. Prof. Raffaello Zarilli from the Department of Public Health at Federico II University in Naples and Prof. Ohad Gal-Moor from the Tel Hashomer "Sheba" Medical Center will investigate how bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics when they are in zero gravity and in the extreme environment of space. Conjugation is the process of transferring genetic material from bacterium to bacterium and can lead to the acquisition of antibiotic resistance. This experiment may allow the development of new drugs and approaches to prevent the acquisition of antibiotic resistance by bacteria.

The results of the experiments, which should arrive in the coming weeks, will be transmitted to the ground station of the Space-Pharma company located in Switzerland and from there will be transferred to researchers in Israel. The nanosatellite will pass six times a day over the ground station and transmit data to Earth. The data will be analyzed in laboratories in Israel and Italy and based on this information commands will be broadcast to continue the experiment in space interactively and in real time. At the same time, the researchers will perform the experiments in an identical system on the ground for control purposes. The differences between the experiments under the various conditions will provide unique information that may lead to breakthroughs.



One response

  1. What a cool company. The experiments look as if they were taken from a book. It's amazing to have the abilities to actually do them.

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