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Understanding Gravity Sensing Defects through Targeted Ear Manipulations (2012-2015)

The pervasive and constant presence of gravity on earth, sensed at the cellular and organismal level, can only be disrupted through exposure to hyper- or microgravity. Exposure to microgravity during space flight or hypergravity during take-off or landing is a problem for space exploration. In addition, vestibular defects compound osteoporosis of the elderly through increased falling and bone fracturing.

The importance of gravity is difficult to teach students due to the continuous and unchanged presence of gravity on earth, their youth and the absence of experience of free fall. Appreciating the effects of hypergravity requires a significant investment in hardware such as centrifuges, available only in certain centers such as NASA Ames, or in space flight.

We developed a multiphase approach to train summer students in monitoring the effect of surgical or molecular manipulations of gravity sensing (the ear in frog embryos). This requires independent and synchronized activities in the Department of Biology at the CLAS of the University of Iowa and the Department of Biochemistry at the CCOM of the University of Iowa. These activities were combined with the development of the software and hardware to monitor the effects of these ear manipulations on the behavior of frog embryos through 3D reconstruction of the tadpole swimming in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at CoE.

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Last modified on September 18th, 2015
Posted on September 10th, 2015