East Chapel Hill High senior’s research will launch into space Saturday

Left to right: Ezequiel Alvarez-Saavedra, Genes in Space co-founder,Pristine Onuoha, 2022 Genes in Space winner and Scott Copeland; Genes in Space co-founder. Photo courtesy miniPCR bio.


By Carl Blankenship

CHAPEL HILL — A local high school student’s research will take a trip to outer space this weekend.

East Chapel Hill High School senior Pristine Onuoha won the International Space Station National Laboratory’s  Genes in Space competition in September. At the time, the laboratory announced her work would be launched into space in 2023.

SpaceX’s CRS-28 resupply mission to the space station will carry the material developed into a flight project by space station astronauts, and the physical effects of the flight are what Onuoha is studying.

Onuoha’s project, which won out of a field of 600 submissions, investigates spaceflight lengthening of DNA sections that protect chromosomes. Those sections, called telomeres, extend during flight and appear to shrink when returning to Earth.

According to a release on the flight, the experiment will use a miniPCR machine to inspect DNA strands from the flight.

For more information on the flight, including other scientific projects on their way to the space station, check out the mission overview.

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