A $15,000 grant from the Indiana Space Grant Consortium (INSGC) will fund an undergraduate
research project at Trine University that seeks to help understand the impact of spacewalks
Trine University biomedical engineering seniors Madison Howard of Pleasant Lake, Michigan,
and Ashley Spirrison of Fishers, Indiana, will lead the project, titled “Developing
Microfluidic Technology to Model the Vascular Health of Astronauts.” Max Gong, Ph.D.,
assistant professor in the Bock Department of Biomedical Engineering, will serve as
The project seeks to help address concerns NASA has regarding the safety of its astronauts
while completing missions outside of Earth’s atmosphere, Gong said.
During missions, astronauts execute Extravehicular Activities (EVAs), commonly referred
to as spacewalks, to repair and complete quality checks of spacecraft, and for research
and exploration purposes. Prior to an EVA, astronauts must be exposed to 100% hyperoxia
(a state of excess supply of oxygen in tissues and organs) for approximately five
to eight hours, with repeats of the protocol two to three times each week.
This increase in blood oxygenation has been linked to DNA damage to lung tissue, overproduction
of nitric oxide, cell damage from lipid peroxidation, and increased pulmonary fibrosis,
Hyperoxia also causes blood vessels to narrow and abnormalities in the architecture
of organs, limiting blood flow or fluid transfer through organs.
The Trine students will develop microfluidic vasculature-on-a-chip models, engineered
models that mimic living tissues, of blood and lymphatic vessels to investigate the
relationship between hyperoxia and its negative health effects. Such models have been
used to better understand vascular health in diseases, such as atherosclerosis, Gong
said, and can be applied to studying and improving the health of astronauts.
The Indiana Space Grant Consortium was created in 1991 under NASA’s National Space
Grant College and Fellowship Program. The Space Grant national network includes organizations
working to expand opportunities for Americans to learn about and participate in NASA’s
aeronautics and space projects by supporting and enhancing science and engineering
education, research and public outreach efforts.
Photo: Trine University biomedical engineering majors Ashley Spirrison, left, and Madison
Howard, right, will lead a research project that seeks to help the impact of spacewalks
on astronauts. The project received a $15,000 grant from the Indiana Space Grant Consortium
(INSGC). Max Gong, Ph.D., center, assistant professor in the Bock Department of Biomedical
Engineering, will serve as advisor.
Last Updated: 09/01/2021