Microflow, an ingenious piece of Canadian biotechnology, has arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) aboard SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft. The ISS crew used Canadarm2, the station's 17-metre robotic arm, to catch Dragon at 5:31 a.m. EST.
With Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield monitoring and assisting operations, ground controllers based at the Canadian Space Agency's headquarters and NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, used Canadarm2 to install Dragon to the station at 8:56 a.m., marking the first time this delicate operation has been controlled remotely from Earth. Dragon also transported more than a ton of supplies to the ISS, including Canadian treats from several regions of the country suggested by the general public through the CSA's "Snacks for Space" contest.
Following an initial investment of $300,000 for testing, Canada awarded the National Optics Institute (INO) a $2.3-million contract in 2011 to design, build, and test this first generation of a transportable flow cytometer for use on the ISS. Microflow will use space as a test environment to develop smaller, cheaper, and faster medical technology that can process and analyze medical samples aboard the ISS.
"Our Government is proud to support cutting-edge technology produced by Canadian companies including Microflow, the latest in biomedical technology," said the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of Industry and Minister responsible for the CSA. "This project stands to benefit all Canadians, especially those living in rural or outlying regions, for example, by allowing doctors to take blood samples and process them on site, providing diagnosis within minutes, rather than sending the sample to a lab to be processed. One day, this could be part of routine tests in a doctor's office."
Microflow will be activated for the first time this week by Canadian Space Agency Astronaut Chris Hadfield. The purpose of Microflow is to test INO's novel fibre-optic approach, enabling the realization of a miniaturized, portable and robust cytometer technology. Flow cytometers are used for a range of bioanalysis and clinical applications to diagnose health disorders. This technology is ideal for use in space and in-field terrestrial bioanalysis.