3 Questions: How to control biofilms in space

scientists from MIT will be working together with peers at University of Colorado at Boulder for an experiment scheduled is provided for the Overseas universe (ISS) on Nov. 2. The research is seeking how to address the formation of biofilms on areas in the universe. These hard-to-kill communities of germs or fungi trigger gear malfunctions and make astronauts ill. MIT Information asked professor of technical manufacturing Kripa Varanasi and doctoral student Samantha McBride to describe the in the pipeline experiments and their objectives.

Q: first of all, reveal in regards to the problem that this study is designed to deal with.

Varanasi: Biofilms develop on surfaces in space channels, which initially had been a shock if you ask me. The reason why would they develop in room? However it’s a concern that can jeopardize the important thing equipment — room fits, water recycling units, radiators, navigation house windows, and so forth — and that can also induce individual illness. It for that reason has to be comprehended and characterized, especially for long-duration space missions.

In certain for the early space station missions like Mir and Skylab, there were astronauts who were getting sick in area. I don’t know if we are able to say without a doubt it is as a result of these biofilms, but we can say for certain that there are equipment problems because biofilm growth, such as for instance blocked valves.

Before there have been scientific studies that demonstrate the biofilms really grow and accumulate more in area than in the world, which will be sorts of surprising. They develop thicker; they usually have different forms. The purpose of this project will be study just how biofilms develop in space. How come they get every one of these various morphologies? Basically, it is the lack of gravity and probably other operating forces, convection as an example.

We also want to take into account remediation approaches. How will you resolve this problem? In our current collaboration with Luis Zea at UC Boulder, we are looking at biofilm development on designed substrates when you look at the existence and lack of gravity. We make different areas of these biofilms to cultivate on, so we apply a number of our technologies developed in this laboratory, including liquid impregnated areas [LIS] and superhydrophobic nanotextured areas, and we looked at how biofilms grow in it. We found that following a year’s well worth of experiments, right here on Earth, the LIS areas did really well: there is no biofilm growth, compared to many other up to date substrates.

Q: just what exactly are you considering selecting within brand new research is flown on ISS?

McBride: you will find signs showing that micro-organisms could actually increase their virulence in area, and so astronauts are more likely to get sick. That is interesting because generally once you think of bacteria, you are thinking about a thing that’s so little that gravity should not play that big a role.

Professor Cynthia Collin’s group at RPI [Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute] performed a previous research on the ISS showing that whenever you’ve got normal gravity, the germs can maneuver around and develop these mushroom-like shapes, versus in microgravity cellular bacteria form this canopy shape of biofilm. So essentially, they’re less constrained more and they may start to cultivate outward inside uncommon morphology.

Our existing work is a collaboration with UC Boulder and Luis Zea since the principal investigator. Therefore today rather than just considering exactly how bacteria respond to microgravity versus gravity on the planet, we’re also considering the way they develop on various designed substrates. As well as, more basically, we are able to see why germs biofilms form the way that they are doing on the planet, just by depriving them of that one variable of having the gravity.

There are 2 different experiments, one with microbial biofilms and something with fungal biofilms. Zea along with his team were developing these organisms within a test media in presence of those areas, after which characterizing them because of the biofilm mass, the thickness, morphology, then the gene appearance. These examples will today be delivered to the area station to observe they develop truth be told there.

Q: So on the basis of the early in the day examinations, exactly what are you hoping to see once the examples come back to world after two months?

Varanasi: What we’ve found thus far is that, interestingly, many biomass develops on superhydrophobic areas, which can be typically considered antifouling. On the other hand, regarding liquid-impregnated areas, technology behind Liquiglide, there was fundamentally no biomass development. This produced exactly the same outcome given that negative control, where there have been no germs.

We also did some control tests to confirm that the oil utilized on the fluid impregnated areas just isn’t biocidal. Therefore we’re not just killing the micro-organisms, they’re actually just perhaps not adhering to the substrate, and they’re maybe not growing indeed there.

McBride: the LIS areas, we’ll be examining whether biofilms form on them or otherwise not. I think both outcomes is truly interesting. If biofilms grow on these surfaces in space, not on a lawn, I think that’s probably tell us some thing quite interesting concerning the behavior of these organisms. Not to mention, if biofilms don’t type and also the areas avoid formation like they do on on the ground, then that is additionally great, because we have now a method to prevent biofilm development on some of the equipment when you look at the universe. 

Therefore we would-be pleased with either outcome, however LIS does perform as well as it performed on the ground, i believe it’s planning to have huge affect future missions when it comes to preventing biofilms rather than getting men and women unwell. 

Basically, from the science viewpoint, we want to understand the development of these films and comprehend all of the biomechanical, biophysical, and biochemical systems behind the rise. By the addition of the top morphology, texture, also properties like the liquid-impregnated areas, we may see brand-new phenomena when you look at the development and advancement of these movies, and perhaps really make a answer to mend the problem.

Varanasi: And then that will cause creating brand-new equipment if not area fits which have these functions. In order for’s where i believe we wish to master from this and then recommend solutions.