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International space station plays host to innovative infectious disease research
Date:2/19/2013

space travel, astronauts may have to further contend with the threat of disease-causing microbes with amped-up infectious abilities. A more thorough understanding of infectious processes and host responses under these conditions is therefore vital for the design of therapeutics and other methods of limiting vulnerability for those on space missions.

The story however, doesn't end there. Further research by Nickerson's team pointed to important implications for the understanding of health and disease on Earth. Her team, including NASA scientists, showed that one of the central factors affecting the behavior of pathogenic cells is the physical force produced by the movement of fluid over a bacterial cell's sensitive surface. This property, known as fluid shear, helps modulate a broad range of cell behaviors, provoking changes in cell morphology, virulence, and global alterations in gene expression, in pathogens like Salmonella.

"There are conditions that are encountered by pathogens during the infection process in the human body that are relevant to conditions that these same organisms experience when cultured in spaceflight. By studying the effect of spaceflight on the disease-causing potential of major pathogens like Salmonella, we may be able to provide insight into infectious disease mechanisms that cannot be attained using traditional experimental approaches on Earth, where gravity can mask key cellular responses," says Nickerson

Nickerson's spaceflight studies also pinpointed an evolutionarily conserved proteincalled Hfqwhich appears to act as a global regulator of gene responses to spaceflight conditions. Further research by her team established that Hfq is a central mediator in the spaceflight-induced responses of other bacterial pathogens, including Pseudomonas aeruginosa, thus representing the first spaceflight-induced regulator acting across bacterial species.

Nickerson's examination of the post-spaceflig
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Contact: Joseph Caspermeyer
Joseph.Caspermeyer@asu.edu
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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