A team of researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will send an army of microorganisms into space this week, to investigate new ways of preventing the formation and spread of biofilms, or clusters of bacteria, that could pose a threat to the health of astronauts.
The Micro-2 experiment, led by Cynthia Collins, assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Rensselaer, is scheduled to launch into orbit on May 14 aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis.
The microorganisms will spend a week in space before returning to Earth aboard the shuttle. Within just a few hours after the shuttle’s return, Collins will be able to examine the bacteria and resulting biofilms to see how their growth and development were impacted by microgravity. The samples also will be returned to Rensselaer, to be examined using the core facilities of the Institute’s Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies.
“We know that gravity plays a key role in the development of biological systems, but we don’t know exactly how a lack of gravity affects the development of bacteria and biofilms,” Collins said. “This means while certain bacteria may be harmless on Earth, they could pose a health threat to astronauts on the International Space Station or, one day, long space flights. Our goal is to better understand how microgravity affects the relationship between humans and bacteria, so we can develop new ways of reduce the threat of biofilms to spacecraft and their crew.”
Partnering with Collins on the Micro-2 project are nanobiotechnology expert Jonathan Dordick, the Howard P. Isermann Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Rensselaer and director of the university’s Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies, and thin films expert Joel Plawsky, professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. NASA is funding the experiment.
Biofilms are complex, three-dimensional microbial communities. Bacteria commonly found in nature are often in the form of biofilms. Most biofilms, including those found in the human body, are harmless. Some biofilms, however, have shown to be associated with disease. Additionally, biofilms in locations such as hospitals – or confined locations like space shuttles – have exhibited resistance to antibiotics. This could pose a problem for astronauts, who have been shown to have an increased susceptibility to infection while in microgravity.
Collins and her team will send up eight devices, called group activation packs (GAPs) and each containing 128 vials of bacteria, aboard the shuttle. While in orbit, astronauts will begin the experiment by manipulating the sealed vials and introducing the bacteria to different membranes. At the same time, Collins will perform the same actions with identical GAPs still on Earth at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. After the shuttle returns, her team will compare the resulting biofilms to see how the behavior of bacteria and development of biofilms in microgravity differed from the control group. The experiment uses BioServe Space Technologies flight-certified hardware.
The Micro-2 research team will also test if newly developed, nanotechnology-based antimicrobial surfaces – developed by Dordick at Rensselaer – can help slow the growth of biofilms on Earth and in microgravity. If successful, these new antimicrobial surfaces could one day be used in hospitals and spacecraft to help reduce the impact of biofilms on human health.
For more information on the project, visit: http://spacebiosciences.arc.nasa.gov/micro2.html
For additional information on Collins’ research, visit: www.rpi.edu/~collic3/Cynthia_CollinsFor additional information on Dordick’s research, visit:
Michael Mullaney | Newswise Science News
Rutgers-led innovation could spur faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing
14.02.2018 | Rutgers University
New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.
In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...
A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.
By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...
Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine
23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy