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EDT Jane Hutchison Ames Research Center, Mountain View, Calif. (Phone: 415/604-9000) RELEASE: 92-130 SPACELAB STUDIES FEATURE FROG EGGS AND SPACE MOTION SICKNESS How will frog eggs develop in the weightlessness of space flight? Can astronauts learn to control the symptoms of space motion sickness? Scientists from NASA's Ames Research Center, Mountain View, Calif., will seek answers to these and other questions during the next Space Shuttle flight in early September. Their experiments are part of the Spacelab-J mission, a 7-day joint space venture of the United States and Japan. Tadpole Development in Space Kenneth A. Souza, Principal Investigator for the frog embryology experiment, said fertilized amphibian eggs -- unlike those of most organisms -- show an obvious response to gravity. His experiment should answer a basic biological question: whether gravity is essential for the normal fertilization of frog eggs and the early development of frogs. The frog egg is a small, 1-2 millimeter (.04 to .08 inch) spherical cell, clearly divided into a darkly pigmented hemisphere
and a lightly colored hemisphere rich in yolk. On Earth, fertilized frog eggs always orient themselves when fertilized so the heavy, lightly pigmented hemisphere is at the "bottom" of the egg, Souza said. Although frog eggs were studied previously in space, "This is the first time we can fertilize them in space and watch their development through hatching," Souza said. "The stage most sensitive to gravity changes and the stage at which the symmetry -- left, right and head-tail location -- of the frog is established occurs shortly after fertilization. This critical stage was missed by previous spaceflight studies." - more -- 2 Four female South African clawed frogs will be carried into space in a special "frog box." Early in the mission, a crew member will inject the frogs with a hormone which stimulates them to shed their eggs. A sperm solution will be added later to fertilize the eggs. Some of the eggs will develop under the microgravity of space flight. Others will develop on an onboard centrifuge that creates a gravity force equal to Earth's. A video camera in the Shuttle will allow Souza and his collaborators to observe the eggs as they develop from eggs to tadpoles. The scientists will study the embryos and tadpoles after the flight to compare them with others developed on Earth. Dr. Muriel Ross, a neurobiologist at Ames, will study the development of balance organs in the inner ear. Dr. Richard Wassersug of Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, will observe the swimming pattern and behavior of the tadpoles. Dr. Steven Black of Reed College, Portland, Ore., will compare the development of embryos grown under weightless conditions to those given simulated gravity on the on-board centrifuge. Easing Space Motion Sickness Spacelab-J will offer another opportunity to look at alleviating the symptoms of space motion sickness. Ames scientist Dr. Patricia Cowings and her colleagues will test the effectiveness of autogenic feedback training (AFT) in easing the symptons of motion sickness. Cowings developed AFT -- a
combination of biofeedback and autogenic therapy (a learned, self-regulation technique) -- at Ames. Cowings, who first successfully tested the technique on two astronauts during a Space Shuttle flight in 1985, said AFT has several advantages over using medication to treat motion sickness symptoms. "AFT produces relief with as little as 6 hours of training and it reduces the behavioral and physiological reactions to even the most provocative motion sickness stimuli," she said. "In addition, there are no side-effects such as sleepiness, reduced short-term memory or blurred vision, as there may be with drugs." Cowings added that AFT is effective in a wide range of individuals and people remember the training a long time. Over the past 19 years, Cowings has trained more than 200 individuals, including military pilots, in autogenic feedback. She observed significant improvement in motion tolerance in 85 percent of them. - more -3During the Spacelab-J mission, two crew members will wear special instruments to record their physiological responses as they move about the Spacelab and carry out normal mission tasks. A portable, battery-powered monitoring system worn on the belt will record such physiological measurements as skin temperature, respiration rate and the heart's electrical currents. One crew member is AFT-trained. Another, non-AFT-trained, crew member serves as a control. "If we're to have a permanent presence in space, we must know how gravity affects the development of life at the cellular level," said Sally Schofield, Ames' payload scientist. "We also must understand how people adapt to microgravity and find ways to ease this process. Ames' experiments address these issues." Greg Schmidt, Ames' payload manager, said his team is anxious to get the mission under way. "Thirty people at Ames have worked for over 8 years getting ready for this mission," he said. "We are very excited about our role in this international mission. We're ready to go."
Souza, Chief of Ames' Space Life Sciences Payloads Office, said the Spacelab-J mission will be his office's third major life science mission in about a year. - end -
NOTE TO EDITORS: Two videos and three still photos to accompany this release are available to news media representatives by calling the NASA Broadcast and Imaging Branch, 202/453-8373. The videos are unnarrated, but each has a brief interview with the principal investigator at the end. Videos: Frog Embryology Experiment (12:11 min.) Autogenic Feedback Training Experiment (8:15 min.) Photos: Color B&W Frog Embryology Experiment Frog Environmental Unit Autogenic Feedback System 92-HC-470 92-HC-471 92-HC-472 92-H-525 92-H-526 92-H-527