Space starves bacteria into better growth
06 Nov 2013
Bacteria in zero gravity are better at growing with limited resources than those under normal gravity conditions on Earth. In a new study in BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Microbiology researchers studied the effect of spaceflight on Pseudomonas aeruginosa cell density.
Bacteria can sense changes in their surroundings and adapt to a range of environmental conditions. Previous studies that have studied bacterial adaptation to microgravity during space flight have produced varying results. Whilst some have shown that bacteria grown in space may have potentially troublesome characteristics, including increases in growth, antibiotic resistance and virulence, others have seen little difference compared to those grown on Earth.
In this study, researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute aimed to get to the bottom of these differences by carrying out experiments to see how a variety of factors affected bacterial growth in space. The researchers grew bacteria under experimental conditions during a spaceflight and on Earth, varying a number of factors known to affect bacteria growth. They saw that bacteria grown in low-phosphate and low-oxygen conditions during spaceflight grew better than on Earth. However, if the concentrations of both phosphate and oxygen were increased then there was no difference between bacteria grown in space and bacteria grown on Earth.
The authors concluded that the microgravity environment encountered during spaceflight appears to allow cells to grow better with limited resources when compared to similar conditions on Earth.
“As astronauts spend more time in spaceflight and a manned mission to Mars becomes closer to reality, it is important to consider how bacteria are affected by the spaceflight environment,” according to Rensselaer Chemical Engineering Professor Cynthia Collins, who led the study. “We hope that studies like ours will improve our ability to predict how microbes will grow aboard a spacecraft and lead to new strategies for minimizing potentially negative effects of microbes on astronaut health during extended missions.”
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Notes to Editor
1. Effect of spaceflight on Pseudomonas aeruginosa final cell density is modulated by nutrient and oxygen availability
Wooseong Kim, Farah K Tengra, Jasmine Shong, Nicholas Marchand, Hon Kit Chan, Zachary Young, Ravindra C Pangule, Macarena Parra, Jonathan S Dordick, Joel L Plawsky and Cynthia H Collins
BMC Microbiology 2013, 13:241, doi:10.1186/1471-2180
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2. BMC Microbiology is an open access, peer-reviewed journal that considers articles on analytical and functional studies of prokaryotic and eukaryotic microorganisms, viruses and small parasites, as well as host and therapeutic responses to them and their interaction with the environment.
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