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Catastrophe averted!


Written by Rachel Blosser

As with many things in life, something potentially devastating seems to pop up at the most inopportune time.

Last week while we were packing and shipping our supplies needed at Kennedy Space Center from Dr. Kacena’s lab, we received an email from our collaborators saying that the collagen required to prepare the bioreactors is on back order until July 17 — YIKES!

Collagen is one of the critical reagents needed to culture cells, and we will need it beginning July 12.  Delivery five days later will not do us much good.

Since research grade collagen is not something we can purchase at the local Walgreens, collaborators from IU, Army and NASA began to brainstorm the best way to handle the situation.  Several approaches were considered and some we’re discarded immediately (like scrub the research project entirely).

Option 1: Decrease bioreactor preparation time. The protocol requires three washes for the bioreactors lasting between six and 24 hours.  Typically we wait overnight; but each wash could be shortened to six hours, allowing two washes per day rather than one wash per day. This would decrease the total bioreactor preparation time and allow us to start the prep a few days later. However, we were not eager to change the prep time if we didn’t absolutely need to.

Option 2: Use current batch of collagen. The Kacena Lab has some collagen left over from the August 2018 Experiment Verification Testing and fortunately has the required amount needed. However, the next challenge was to determine the best way to get it to Kennedy Space Center, not only because this is now our sole source of collagen but also because collagen is very temperature sensitive. If we couldn’t ensure it would be maintained at 2-8 degrees at all times then it would breakdown and be unusable.

We considered several alternatives at this point: send the collagen with the students driving to Kennedy Space Center; carry it onto the airplane with a team members that will be flying; overnight express mail in a single package to Kennedy Space Center; or split it in half and mail overnight in two separate shipments.

We finally decided the best approach was to mail the collagen to Kennedy Space Center in two different overnight delivery packages. In case something happens to one package, we would still have a backup.

As we get closer and closer to the launch, I am learning that hiccups like this may increase my stress level, but once we get through the challenge my sense of accomplishment grows.  I have also learned that you always need a backup plan — or two.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
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Caitlin VanOverberghe

Caitlin VanOverberghe is a communications coordinator for the Indiana University School of Medicine, where she supports the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and the Department of Ophthalmology. Having earned degrees in journalism and telecommunications ...