An experiment looking at the immune systems of astronauts in space will soon be conducted onboard the International Space Station (ISS).
The idea comes from a young girl's DNA experiment which stood out among those of other young students in the first Genes in Space Competition.
Genes in Space selected the experiment as winner of the first competition in July.
Sixteen-year-old Ana-Sophia Boguraev, a student at Bedford in New York, wants to see the effects of microgravity and radiation on the immune system of astronauts in space.
During the competition, students from Grades 7 to 12 were asked to solve an actual space problem, through the use of DNA analysis. After the final presentations held at the ISS Research and Development Conference in Boston, Boguraev was announced as the winner.
According to the contest officials, astronaut health is affected by immune suppression during space mission. The underlying causes, however, are not fully understood. "By integrating the genetic regulation of the immune system in space, Ana-Sophia hopes to offer new avenues to enhance human health during prolonged spaceflight missions."
Genes in Space has not announced when exactly the young student's experiment will launch, but she will definitely be invited to the launch so she can see it rocket into space. Currently, the Russian Progress vehicles, SpaceX Dragon capsules, Japan's HTV-2 Spacecraft and Orbital Sciences' Antares spacecraft are some of the cargo ships launched at the ISS.
Finalists who made it next to Boguraev are:
Jonathan Chang, 17 years old, and Thiago Bandeira, 16 years old from Sammamish, Wash., whose experiment aims to study the damage caused by OU-20 bacteria to DNA. The bacteria can survive on the exterior of the ISS.
Alyssa Huff, 16 years old, from State College, Pennsylvania, who aims to develop a method of detecting extraterrestrial life using PCR on the ISS by testing natural and unnatural genetic material in space.
Tarun Srinivasan, 17 years old, from Houston, Texas, whose experiment was designed in a way that can test changes in composition of the bacteria in an astronaut's body before, during and after travelling to space.
Genes in Space, which aims to "foster creativity, collaboration and critical thinking among young innovators," organized its first competition with the co-sponsorship of Boeing, Math for America, miniPCR and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space.