Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Shuttle brings space-grown strep bacteria back for study

24.08.2007
When the space shuttle Endeavour touched down at the Kennedy Space Center August 21, University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston microbiology and immunology department chairman David Niesel was waiting by the runway, looking forward to a reunion with some of its passengers.

The space travelers Niesel was meeting weren’t astronauts. They were Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, members of a species commonly found in the human upper respiratory tract but in this case riding in sealed experimental containers in the shuttle’s mid-deck.

Streptococcus pneumoniae is what’s known as an “opportunistic bacterium,” one that’s normally harmless but always ready to exploit the right circumstances and cause full-blown disease. For infants, the elderly and others with weaker-than-normal immune systems — possibly including astronauts on long space flights — it can be quite dangerous.

“Strep pneumoniae is a very potent pathogen in people who are immunosuppressed — it’s the number-one cause of community-acquired pneumonia, and a leading mediator of bacteremia [bacterial blood infections] and meningitis,” Niesel said. “There’s a decline in people’s immune function the longer they’re in the space environment, and it’s been shown that other bacteria also alter their properties in microgravity — they grow faster, they tend to be more virulent and resistant to microbial treatment.”

... more about:
»Niesel »bacteria »canister »pneumonia

Niesel and other investigators want to know exactly how Streptococcus pneumoniae changes in microgravity and whether those changes could pose a threat to crew members on a mission with no chance of a quick return to Earth — for example, a months- or years-long journey to Mars and back. In 1999, they began work on SPEGIS (Streptococcus pneumoniae Expression of Genes in Space), a project to grow the bacteria in orbit and bring them back home frozen in “zero-g mode” for study.

Eight years later, six tightly sealed vials of the bugs were launched into orbit in a cold-storage experiment locker that kept them inactivated at about 39 degrees Fahrenheit. To make sure that the shuttle crew would not be exposed to a potential pathogen, the vials themselves were also packed into two sealed aluminum canisters.

On day five of the mission, with the shuttle docked to the International Space Station, the crew raised the canisters and their contents to just above human body temperature and incubated them there for 15 and a half hours. Then they transferred them to a super-cold freezer on the ISS, which dropped the temperature of the canisters to 139 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.

“That locked the bacteria at whatever stage they were at, whatever genes they were expressing and whatever proteins they had present were locked in, because no more metabolism was occurring,” Niesel said. “So we get a picture of what they were like in space at that time, which is the cool part.”

Control experiments conducted on Earth followed every step of the process as it was done in orbit, with canister transfers even timed to the minute. “Now we have two snapshots of the bacteria frozen in time, grown with the same parameters except the microgravity part, and we should be able to see the differences that result when the bacteria see this unique space environment,” Niesel continued.

The bacteria are expected to arrive in Galveston later this week or early next week, kept cold with dry ice all the way to maintain them just as they were in orbit. Once he gets the bacteria in his lab, Niesel plans to conduct complete protein and genetic analyses, as well as possible virulence studies in laboratory mice.

“Seeing the Endeavour land was the culmination of many years of preparation, persistence and uncertainty — we were originally scheduled to fly shortly after the Columbia accident — but it’s been worth the wait to get the chance to make one of the first studies of an opportunistic pathogen in space,” Niesel said. “We think it will provide important information for understanding the adaptation of bacteria to unique environments, and begin to answer the question of whether this species is a cause for concern for long-duration space travelers."

Jim Kelly | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.utmb.edu

Further reports about: Niesel bacteria canister pneumonia

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute

nachricht Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>