Features Features (News) — 17 January 2013
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Team Earns Competitive Grant, Begins ISS Mission Biology Experiment

From left, Dan Kirk and Sam Durrance. Not pictured: Hector Gutierrez

Florida Tech researchers have won a prestigious grant enabling their novel biology experiment to travel on a flight to the International Space Station (ISS). Their proposal, “Self-Assembly in Biology and the Origin of Life (SABOL): A Study into Alzheimer’s,” was just one of eight proposals chosen by Space Florida and NanoRacks, LLC, in the ISS Research Competition.

The winners receive payload transportation to the ISS via an upcoming SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Launch is currently slated for December.

Faculty researchers are Sam Durrance, Daniel Kirk and Hector Gutierrez. They will work with about 30 science and engineering students to design and develop the payload and analyze the data.

“We seek to gain an improved understanding of the origin of life on our planet and of Alzheimer’s disease, and provide an opportunity to apply this new understanding for the betterment of humanity,” said Durrance.

Durrance leads the biological science experiment, which will investigate the spontaneous assembly of amyloid proteins into long linear fibers. Postmortem studies of neurons taken from Alzheimer’s disease victims show accumulated linear amyloid fibers composed of either Tau proteins or amyloid-β peptides. Both can self-organize in solution through colloidal interactions.

For more information on SABOL, contact Durrance at sdurranc@fit.edu or dkirk@fit.edu.

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