Biologics.com – A group of scientists has developed a new way for bacteria to survive and thrive in space, and that means we can expect to see them in the skies for a long time to come.
The study, published in the journal Science Advances, is the first to show that bacteria in space are able to survive without oxygen and, therefore, without oxygen molecules.
The researchers found that the ability to use oxygen as a source of energy for the production of carbon dioxide, the most common fuel in space applications, depends on the presence of two proteins that form a “bridge” between bacteria and oxygen in the space environment.
When bacteria live in an oxygen-free environment, they produce a chemical that allows them to use carbon dioxide as a way to maintain metabolic activity.
But when the oxygen supply is limited, the bacteria can’t produce the carbon dioxide.
Researchers tested the possibility that the two proteins could provide an efficient way for space bacteria to avoid the limits imposed by oxygen in space.
“This is the most important step in making space travel possible,” said study co-author Mark Shrout, an associate professor of bioengineering at the University of California, Davis.
He and his colleagues found that when a bacterial cell was placed in a space environment that contained oxygen, its ability to produce CO2 as a fuel increased, allowing it to survive for longer in space without oxygen.
The study also showed that the proteins could work in tandem to reduce the production or the amount of oxygen in an environment, and to keep the carbon in space as stable as possible.
As long as these bacteria remain in space for at least six weeks, Shrouts said, they can potentially survive for at most two years in space before the production and release of oxygen stops.
The researchers plan to continue studying the bacteria in more detail and determine how to better design space applications. “
There’s no question that the bacteria will thrive in this environment, but there is a lot of work to do to get them to space.”
The researchers plan to continue studying the bacteria in more detail and determine how to better design space applications.
In the meantime, the space agency has been working to develop a way for humans to fly in space to help improve the quality of life in spaceflight.
There is still much work to be done before humans can travel to space in any meaningful way, NASA said in a statement on the study.
“But these results show that space-borne bacteria are able, on the whole, to survive during extended periods of in-space activity,” the statement said.
If you or someone you know needs help in space: Dial 888-737-8333 and contact a space specialist at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Read more about space science at ABCNews.com.