Regulating pH for a closed cell culture system in microgravity

HNu Photonics LLC, SCOPRIO-V BioChip Space Lab, Summer 2016

HNu-Photonics is building the Stem Cell Optical Research Platform in Orbit (SCORPIO-V) to conduct experiments in microgravity with live-cell imaging. This platform enables cell culture at a healthy pH of 7.4 using a BioChip: a custom-designed microfluidic cell culture vessel in which cells are grown and imaged. Due to the fact that a CO2 incubator cannot be used on the International Space Station (ISS), an alternate method of pH regulation must be implemented. BioChips containing cell media were imaged using a USB microscope to obtain RGB pixel values of a pH indicator dye (phenol red) over a range of typical cell culture pH values. A script in Python was created to take pictures of the BioChip, determine the pH optically, and turn on a pump to change media if necessary. Using the cell densities, cell type, and flow rate, the frequency of cell media replacements can be determined. This automation will keep cells alive and healthy for experimentation on-board the ISS.