horizonal graphic

UIC News Tips
University of Illinois at Chicago Office of Public Affairs (MC 288)
601 S. Morgan St., Chicago, IL 60607-7113, (312) 996-3456, www.uic.edu/depts/paff

November 28, 2001 Contact: Sharon Butler (312) 355-2522; sbutler@uic.edu




When the space shuttle Endeavour lifts off Thursday carrying several thousand American flags honoring those who died in the Sept. 11 attacks, also on board will be 36 quail eggs for an experiment conducted by Anna Lysakowski, associate professor of anatomy and cell biology at UIC, and David Dickman of the Central Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis.

Lysakowski and Dickman are studying the effects of zero gravity on the development of the vestibular system of the inner ear, the part that helps control balance. Their work has implications for medicine today and in the future.


Nov. 29 through Dec. 10
Cape Canaveral, Fla. and outer space


Lysakowski wants to learn whether the development of the vestibular system, which takes only 16 days in quail eggs, depends on adequate stimulation during a critical period, as is true for other parts of the auditory system.

"The vestibular system is a uniquely balanced system that we don't think much about when it works properly," Lysakowski said. "When it doesn't - for example, in disorders such as Ménière's Disease - people have difficulty even standing, moving or watching things. It's impossible to function."

The 36 quail eggs will be housed in a special incubator (called the Avian Development Facility) designed to guard against the effects of gamma rays, vibration and conditions during launch and re-entry. Half the eggs will develop in conditions that approximate Earth's gravity, the others in zero gravity. The incubator is programmed to inject a fixative that stops growth in selected eggs at different times.

Using UIC's advanced electron microscopy facilities, Lysakowski and her two technicians, Steven Price and David Nahey, will study the synaptic connections that develop between the inner ear and the nerves projecting to the brain.

Someday, Lysakowski says, animals or even humans will be born on space missions. "The question we want to answer is, when these offspring return to Earth, will they be able to function in normal gravity?"

- UIC -

Copyright © 2001 University of Illinois at Chicago
Weekly Advisory Experts Guide News Bureau Staff News Tips Index News Bureau