Huntsville, AL –November 12, 2021 – Colgate-Palmolive’s Oral Biofilms in Space (OBiS) experiment has returned to earthbound laboratories. Teledyne Brown Engineering assisted Colgate-Palmolive in the integration and system safety requirements for the spaceflight, storage, and operations on the International Space Station (ISS). The astronauts aboard the ISS carried out the experiment of growing the first oral biofilm in space. After the experiments were complete, the kits containing the biofilm were sent back to Earth. This study set out to explore the effects of gravity on the structure, composition, and activity of oral bacteria in the presence of common oral care agents. The scientists at Colgate-Palmolive want to use information gained by this research to develop better oral health regimens on earth and for astronauts in space.
Teledyne Brown Engineering worked with Colgate-Palmolive and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) in experiment planning, integration, and safety protocols. They also supported the hardware interface requirements needed to perform flight experiments with potentially hazardous and toxic materials onboard the ISS. This experiment required 47 safety verifications and 19 tests before flight approval was given by NASA. As a first-of-its kind experiment, the technology and processes developed have set a significant precedent for future, commercial biologic space research.
“We are excited to be participating in an experiment which may lead to advancements in the way we manage oral health,” stated Jan Hess, President of Teledyne Brown Engineering. “Space is such a unique environment that provides new possibilities for many different areas of research.”
The 23 experiment kits spent 36 days on the ISS. These kits contained a 3D-printed microfluidic chamber engineered by UNLV. Each chamber contains a pump, saliva, and oral bacteria and are about the size of a quarter. The pumps administered the liquid growth medium to the saliva/bacteria on small calcium chips for growth of the oral biofilm. During post-flight analysis, these calcium chips will be analyzed and evaluated by Colgate-Palmolive and UNLV.
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