Tag Archives: bacteria

Bacteria in Space Grows in Strange Ways


When bacteria grows in a dish of fake urine in space, it behaves in ways never-before-seen in Earth microorganisms, scientists say.

A team of scientists sent samples of the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa into orbit aboard NASA’s space shuttle Atlantis to see how they grew in comparison to their Earth-dwelling counterparts.

The 3D communities of microorganisms (called biofilms) grown aboard the space shuttle had more live cells, were thicker and had more biomass than the bacterial colonies grown in normal gravity on Earth as controls. The space bacteria also grew in a “column-and-canopy” structure that has never been observed in bacterial colonies on Earth, according to NASA scientists.

“Biofilms were rampant on the Mir space station and continue to be a challenge on the [International Space Station], but we still don’t really know what role gravity plays in their growth and development,” NASA’s study leader Cynthia Collins, an assistant professor in the department of chemical and biological engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., said in a statement. “Our study offers the first evidence that spaceflight affects community-level behaviors of bacteria, and highlights the importance of understanding how both harmful and beneficial human-microbe interactions may be altered during spaceflight.”

Most biofilms found in the human body and in nature are harmless, but some are associated with disease, NASA officials said.

The space bacteria were cultured in artificial urine on NASA’s Atlantis shuttle in 2010 and again in 2011 before the retirement of NASA’s space shuttle program. Collins and her team of researchers used fabricated urine because it can be used to study the formation of biofilm outside and inside the body. Understanding how to safely remove and recycle waste is particularly relevant because of its importance in long-term spaceflight, NASA officials said.

“The unique appearance and structure of the P. aeruginosa biofilms formed in microgravity suggests that nature is capable of adapting to nonterrestrial environments in ways that deserve further studies, including studies exploring long-term growth and adaptation to a low-gravity environment,” Collins said in a statement. “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.”

Scientists sent 12 devices with eight vials of P. aeruginosa — a bacterium that can be associated with disease on Earth — into orbit on Atlantis. Once in space, astronauts on the shuttle introduced the bacterium to the fake urine while scientists on the ground began the control experiment.

After the samples arrived safely on Earth, Collins and her team took a detailed 3D image of the biofilms to investigate their internal structure, and used other research methods to investigate the colony’s thickness and cell growth.

The study, published in the April 20 issue of the journal PLOS ONE, also could have implications for bacterial research on Earth. It’s possible that this kind of research could help scientists and doctors more effectively limit the spread of infection in hospitals, Collins said.

Image courtesy of NASA

This article originally published at Space.com

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/07/10/bacteria-growth-space/

This Crowdfunding Project Lets You Edit DNA From In Own Home

If youve been keeping up with science news, youve probably heard of CRISPR, the not-so-new gene editing technique on the block. Its not as scary as it might sound: we actually stole it from bacteria, which use it as a defense mechanism against viruses. And the places it could take us are tantalizing. Imagine a day when scientists can just snip out disease-causing mutations and rid us of genetic diseases? If that sounds exciting to you, then youll be delighted to hear this fancy experiment could soon be coming to your home.

But before your imagination runs wild with images ofturning yourself into some X-Men-style mutant with superpowers from your parents basement, this isnt about changing your own DNA. Sorry. Instead, a crowdfunding project on Indiegogo, from the guy behind The ODIN, hopes to bring synthetic biology to the masses by selling kits that allow you to modify microbes. You dont need to be a scientist, and you dont need a swanky laboratory.

DIY CRISPR genome engineering kits/Indiegogo

If youre feeling deflated because your dreams of being the Hulk have just been shattered, the science you can do is still pretty cool. For just $75 (50), you can make glow in the dark bacteria, and we all know how much fun it is to draw artistic/rude pictures with microbes in petri dishes (see above). The idea is to teach budding scientists, or just those with a keen interest in biology, about both genetic engineering and bioluminescence. For $25 (16.50) more, you can hack the DNA of bacteria and control them with blue light, a technique commonly used in neuroscience known as optogenetics.

DIY CRISPR genome engineering kits/Indiegogo

To jump on the CRISPR bandwagon, youll need to pull out a little more from your pocket, with the cheapest kit starting at $130 (86), and it comes with everything you need: a pipette, growth media, bacteria, DNA, the editing enzymes, and so on. Of course, youre not expected to know how to do it without some help, so step-by-step guides are included. Its not dangerous, but of course we dont recommend poking the bacteria and then putting your finger in your eye. Biology 101.

Brought to you by NASA synthetic biologist Josiah Zayner, who is currently trying to work out ways to terraform Mars, he hopes that this project will get more people contributing to science.

Without you, science will remain the stagnant behemoth out of everyones reach, Zayner wrote on his Indiegogo page. With you, people will be able to contribute to solving some of the most pressing issues we face in health, medicine, food and fuel. If we work together we can create something beautiful.

[H/T: PopSci]

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/technology/crowdfunding-project-wants-you-edit-dna-your-home0

“Hellish” Ancient Organisms Found Living Inside Earth’s Crust

Billions of years of evolution on Earth have produced endless forms most beautiful, as Darwin poetically noted. Some have evolved to live in extreme environments, such asdeep sea hydrothermal vents and around the rims of lava lakes. Now, anew study published in Nature Microbiology reveals that extremely rare lifeforms have even managed to eke out a living inside the Earths crust itself.

The microbes in question are calledachaea,highly primitive lifeforms that have been found thriving in acidic hot springsand salt likes, environments that would be uninhabitable to most other critters.Although theyresemble bacteria, the two groups are about as genetically different as a human and a tree.

These new microscopic extremists, found 3.2 kilometers (2 miles) ina South African gold mine, are called Hadesarchaea roughly meaning hellish ancient things. Surviving at temperatures of up to 80C (176F), this name is certainly appropriate. This new study is the first to work out how these deep-dwelling,single-celled microbes are able to live within the Earths crust, at extremely high temperatures, lacking both oxygen and light.

Without the ability to photosynthesize, as many types of microorganisms do, scientists thoughtthe Hadesarchaea may obtain their energy by taking advantage of certain chemical compounds in their surroundings. This process is known as chemosynthesis.

During chemosynthesis,carbon-containing moleculessuch as carbon dioxide or methane, losean electron in a process calledoxidation. These reactions produce small amounts of energythatthe microorganisms use to makecarbohydrates. Plenty of bacteria and archaea use this method to survive within areas like the Lost City Hydrothermal Field at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

The Hadesarchaea were also found living beneath and within Yellowstones hot springs. Oliver S/Shutterstock

These extremophiles are also found in the Yellowstone National Park hot springs in Wyoming and within the White Oak River estuary in North Carolina. By carefully sequencing the genome of these surface-dwelling Hadesarchaea, the researchers were able to identify key genes responsible for controlling metabolicprocesses.

By comparing the metabolic genes ofHadesarchaea with those ofother microorganisms, we figured out that Hadesarchaea had a rather versatile metabolic repertoire, Thijs Ettema, an associate professor at Uppsala University, Sweden, told IFLScience. Genes associated with the oxidization of carbon monoxide were found, meaning that they mayuse a considerably rare form of chemosynthesis.

Ettema notes that the Hadesarchaea appear to have adapted to make do with whatever forms of carbon seep down to these nearly-inhospitable depths, making them scavengers in a manner of speaking. In addition, their relatively small genome means that they use very little energy in producing nutrients or replicating themselves.

All in all, they are certainly well-adapted to living in such challenging conditions. Life that may have evolved in comparably extreme environments elsewhere in the Solar System and beyond may perhaps gain energy by using the same type of chemosynthesis. However, Ettema cautions that before being able to provide a more firm, educated guess about [this], we would first need to understand better how other microbes of Earths deep biosphere make a living.

Photo Gallery

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/hellish-ancient-organisms-found-living-within-earths-crust