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The science of shipping

The Science Of Shipping

Pictured: Sue Samson

Written by Sue Samson

Surprisingly, there is even a science aspect to getting our research materials to Florida.

Dr. Kacena’s studies are conducted at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, so moving all of the essentials to the laboratories in Cape Canaveral means a lot of packing, repacking, shipping, tracking and analyzing.

In all, eight boxes of supplies, cells, serum and reagents will be packed up for overnight delivery to NASA on three different days.  Mission-critical cells and serum will be split into three different packages to minimize the risk of loss if something were to happen to the shipment, such as a delayed arrival, lost/damaged package or detrimental temperature fluctuations.

Because the cells need to remain frozen until the scientists are ready to load them into the bioreactors at NASA, the cells will be packed into a cooler containing dry ice (which is frozen carbon dioxide).

When packed properly, the cells will stay at -80 degrees Celsius for a few days even during the height of summer heat.

But how do we know the cells don’t thaw a bit while in transit?  Data loggers!

A data logger is a small electronic recorder that measures temperature over time, and a logger will be placed in every temperature-sensitive package.

Upon arrival at Kennedy Space Center, the data from the loggers will be downloaded and analyzed to ensure the temperature remained within the proper range. Below is a data logger readout from our first cell shipment.

The Science Of Shipping 2

You can see the temperature drop to -80 degrees on June 27, 2019 and remain near that temperature until the next day when it was unpacked at NASA.

This information gives us the confidence that our cells remained frozen throughout the shipping process and should be viable for the next phase of research.

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.

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 ...