Cynthia Collins, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering at Rensselaer, is leading a series of experiments called Micro-2A that will be aboard the shuttle during its scheduled 12-day mission.
The research seeks to understand how microgravity changes the way potentially dangerous bacteria grows. In particular, the research will examine how they form difficult-to-kill colonies called biofilms.
The research has important implications for protecting astronauts while they are in space in enclosed and difficult-to-clean spaces, such as the International Space Station, or during extended space missions deeper into our solar system. It also provides new information in the fight against ever-more virulent bacterial infections such as staph, food poisoning, sepsis, and pneumonia.
Partnering with Collins on the project are nanobiotechnology expert Jonathan Dordick, the Howard P. Isermann Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Rensselaer and director of the Rensselaer Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies, and thin films expert Joel Plawsky, professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. The NASA Ames Research Center is funding the experiment.
This is the second time that Collins’ research will be included on the shuttle. Her research on bacteria was also aboard the shuttle mission that launched May 14, 2010. Collins has been analyzing the results of this previous work and will use this new series of experiments to test some of the results she has seen.
“We are clearly seeing altered biofilm formation during space flight,” she said. “There are some clear differences between the amount of biofilm formed in normal gravity and microgravity. These differences also appear to be organism dependent, with different organisms responding very differently to the environment in space.”
The bacteria that Collins will include are Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus. These bacteria are responsible for more hospital-acquired infections than any other, according to Collins. The Center for Disease Control places hospital-acquired infections such as those caused by these bacteria as the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.
Biofilms are complex, three-dimensional microbial communities. Most biofilms, including those found in the human body, are harmless. Some biofilms, however, have been shown to be associated with disease. Researchers like Collins are discovering that the bacteria within these colonies have very different properties, including increased resistance to antimicrobials, compared with bacteria not encased in a biofilm.
Collins and her team will send up 16 devices, called Group Activation Packs (GAPs) and each containing eight vials of bacteria, aboard the shuttle. The GAPs and other hardware used by the Collins and her team were developed by BioServe Space Technologies. While in orbit, astronauts will begin the experiment by manipulating the sealed GAPs and combining the bacteria with nutrients and a surface on which they can form biofilms. At the same time, Collins will perform the same actions with identical GAPs 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 differs from the Earth-bound control group.
In addition, the research team will also test if a newly developed, antimicrobial surface — developed by Dordick at Rensselaer — can help slow the growth of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, on Earth and in microgravity. Actual MRSA, the bacteria responsible for antibiotic-resistant infections, will not be used for the safety of those on board. A different and safer strain of bacteria with similar properties will serve as a proxy. The new surface developed by Dordick utilizes an enzyme found in nature and kills 100 percent of MRSA within 20 minutes of contact.
The new technology marries carbon nanotubes with lysostaphin, a naturally occurring enzyme used by non-pathogenic strains of staph bacteria to defend against staph growth. The resulting nanotube-enzyme biomaterial can be mixed with any number of surface finishes. In tests, it was mixed with ordinary latex house paint. More information on the surface can be found at: http://news.rpi.edu/update.do?artcenterkey=2759.
Astronauts have been shown to have an increased susceptibility to infection while in microgravity, making a deeper understanding of how these bacteria behave in space of particular importance, according to Collins. In addition to its importance in planning future space missions, the research also has important applications here on Earth. The conditions in space are similar to those produced within the human body on several levels. Understanding how bacteria thrive in space may also provide insight into how they develop once they enter the human body.
For additional information on Collins’ research, go to www.rpi.edu/~collic3/Cynthia_Collins. More information on Collins previous shuttle experiment can be found at http://news.rpi.edu/update.do?artcenterkey=2723
Gabrielle DeMarco | Newswise Science News
NRL clarifies valley polarization for electronic and optoelectronic technologies
20.10.2017 | Naval Research Laboratory
Integrated lab-on-a-chip uses smartphone to quickly detect multiple pathogens
19.10.2017 | University of Illinois College of Engineering
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
20.10.2017 | Information Technology
20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research