Spaceflight Alters Bacterial Social Networks

0

When astronauts launch into space, a microbial entourage follows. And the sheer number of these followers would give celebrities on Twitter a run for their money. The estimate is that normal, healthy adults have ten times as many microbial cells as human cells within their bodies; countless more populate the environment around us. Although invisible to the naked eye, microorganisms – some friend, some foe – are found practically everywhere.


Microorganisms like bacteria often are found attached to surfaces living in communities known as biofilms. Bacteria within biofilms are protected by a slimy matrix that they secrete. Skip brushing your teeth tomorrow morning and you may personally experience what a biofilm feels like.

One of NASA’s goals is to minimize the health risks associated with extended spaceflight, so it is critical that methods for preventing and treating spaceflight-induced illnesses be developed before astronauts embark upon long-duration space missions. It is important for NASA to learn how bacterial communities that play roles in human health and disease are affected by spaceflight.

In two NASA-funded studies – Micro-2 and Micro-2A – biofilms made by the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa were cultured on Earth and aboard space shuttle Atlantis in 2010 and 2011 to determine the impact of microgravity on their behavior. P. aeruginosa is an opportunistic human pathogen that is commonly used for biofilm studies. The research team compared the biofilms grown aboard the International Space Station bound space shuttle with those grown on the ground. The study results show for the first time that spaceflight changes the behavior of bacterial communities.

Written By: Gianine M. Figliozzi
continue to source article at nasa.gov

NO COMMENTS

  1. Studies at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. “Before we start sending astronauts to Mars or embarking on other long-term spaceflight missions, we need to be as certain as possible that we have eliminated or significantly reduced the risk that biofilms pose to the human crew and their equipment.”

    Before sending life to Mars, we need some secure quarantine procedures in place, to avoid scattering problem Earth organisms all over the place. Probably similar systems would be good on the Moon if that is not already contaminated.

    • In reply to #1 by Alan4discussion:

      Studies at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. “Before we start sending astronauts to Mars or embarking on other long-term spaceflight missions, we need to be as certain as possible that we have eliminated or significantly reduced the risk that biofilms pose to the human crew and thei…

      The chances of preventing the contamination of Mars on a human mission are nil. It’s unlikely, though not impossible, that any organisms would survive the Martian environment (much less the Moon’s); however, we would leave behind a tremendous amount of bacterial, viral, and fungal material, not to mention human tissues like dead skin cells and the variety of secretions, emissions, and exudates that go along with us. Robotic missions like Curiosity are sterilized, though imperfectly, in ways that you cannot do with humans. There’s a lot more work to be done on the Red Planet to rule in or out the possibility of life on Mars and it should be done BEFORE we ever start sending humans. We’d be our own worst enemies in the search for Martian life or for undisputable evidence that it was there in the past.

      • In reply to #2 by Gnu Atheist:

        The chances of preventing the contamination of Mars on a human mission are nil. It’s unlikely, though not impossible, that any organisms would survive the Martian environment (much less the Moon’s); however, we would leave behind a tremendous amount of bacterial, viral, and fungal material, not to mention human tissues like dead skin cells and the variety of secretions, emissions, and exudates that go along with us.

        The best system I have seen to manage this is the Double Shell spacesuit developed by the Institute of Astronautics TU Munchen (Thomas Dirlich and Dennis Weihraich).

        This is used in conjunction with a specially designed airlock/ clean room. The outer suit is fixed to the outside of the craft or spacebase as part of the hull, and is entered by an astronaut (wearing the inner suit), through a double hatch/door in the back of the suit. When the astronaut leaves the station, one door remains attatched to the back of the space suit and the other remains attached to the station. When the astronaut returns, both doors are locked together containing any dust between them, and the both doors open together with the dust sealed between them to allow the astronaut to climb out of the outer suit into the airlock. This acts as a two-way quarantine system with only the door edge seals a possible source of contamination between the clean-room-airlock and the outside environment. A similar system would be fitted to any vehicles.

        This is explained in the British Interplanetary Society: Project Boreas – A Station for the Martian Geographic North Pole

Leave a Reply