NASA scientists have discovered heretofore unseen behavior in the ways bacteria grows in space as compared to microorganisms grown on Earth, reports Yahoo.com
Samples of the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa were sent into orbit aboard the space shuttle Atlantis for the purpose of discovering how they grew when compared to their earthly counterparts.
The 3D communities of microorganisms, or biofilms, that were grown in artificial urine aboard the shuttle were thicker, had more live cells and more biomass than the bacterial colonies grown on Earth in normal gravity.
Scientists said the space bacteria grew in a “column-and-canopy” structure, a form they have never seen in bacterial colonies on Earth.
“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,” said NASA's study leader Cynthia Collins.
“Our study offers the first evidence that space flight affects community-level behaviors of bacteria, and highlights the importance of understanding how both harmful and beneficial human-microbe interactions may be altered during space flight.”
While most biofilms found in the human body and in nature are harmless, NASA officials said some are associated with disease.
Artificial urine was used to culture the space bacteria because it can be used to study the formation of biofilm outside and inside the body.
The safe removal and recycling of waste is a major issue because of its importance in long-term space flight.
“The unique appearance and structure of the P. aeruginosa biofilms formed in microgravity suggests that nature is capable of adapting to non-terrestrial environments in ways that deserve further studies, including studies exploring long-term growth and adaptation to a low-gravity environment,” Collins said.
“Before we start sending astronauts to Mars or embarking on other long-term space flight 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.”
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