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Spacebound bacteria inspire earthbound remedies
Date:3/21/2011

suffering from cystic fibrosis and is a serious risk to burn victims. However, a high enough dosage of Salmonella typhimurium always will cause disease, even in healthy individuals.

During the initial study in 2006, two bacterial pathogens, Salmonella typhimurium and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and one fungal pathogen, Candida albicans, were launched to the station aboard space shuttles. They were allowed to grow in appropriately contained vessels for several days. Nickerson's team was the first to evaluate global gene and protein expression (how the bacteria react at the molecular level) and virulence changes in microbes in response to reduced gravity.

"We discovered that aspects of the environment that microbes encountered during spaceflight appeared to mimic key conditions that pathogens normally encounter in our bodies during the natural course of infection, particularly in the respiratory system, gastrointestinal system and urogenital tract," Nickerson said. NASA's Advanced Capabilities Division Director, Benjamin Neumann added that, "This means that in addition to safeguarding future space travelers, such research may aid the quest for better therapeutics against pathogens here on Earth."

The initial study and follow-on space experiments show that spaceflight creates a low fluid shear environment, where liquids exert little force as they flow over the surface of cells. The low fluid shear environment of spaceflight affects the molecular genetic regulators that can make microbes more infectious. These same regulators might function in a similar way to regulate microbial virulence during the course of infection in the human body.

"We have now shown that spaceflight conditions modified molecular pathways that are known to be involved in the virulence of Pseudomonas aeruginosa," said Aurlie Crabb, a researcher in Dr. Nickerson's lab at ASU and the lead author of the paper. "Future work will esta
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Contact: Joe Caspermeyer
Joseph.Caspermeyer@asu.edu
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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