Search Ames

Go

News Releases

Text Size

Ruth Dasso Marlaire
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
Phone: 650-604-4709
E-mail: rmarlaire@mail.arc.nasa.gov

August 9, 2007
 
RELEASE : 07_53AR
 
 
Astronauts to Conduct Study of Bacterial Growth in Space
 
 
MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. -- When space shuttle Endeavour rocketed into space yesterday, it took along a common microorganism normally found in the upper respiratory tract of approximately 40 percent of the healthy human population.

The experiment, Streptococcus pneumoniae Expression of Genes in Space (SPEGIS), part of the STS-118 space shuttle mission launched Aug. 8, 2007, will investigate the effects of the space environment on the common microorganism Streptococcus pneumoniae (S. pneumoniae). Scientists believe that sending this bacterium into space may lead to a better understanding of S. pneumoniae, an opportunistic human pathogen, which causes infections in individuals with reduced immune function. This bacterial pathogen is the most common cause of pneumonia, middle ear infections and bacterial meningitis.

“The opportunity to investigate and understand the effects of spaceflight on the pathogenic potential of S. pneumoniae may further the design and development of new drugs that can be used for treatment of diseases on Earth,” said Hami Teal, the experiment’s project scientist and a researcher at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

Vials containing bacterial cultures were loaded aboard space shuttle Endeavor in SPEGIS Canister Assemblies developed by NASA. The hardware consists of three canisters, each containing three sealed polypropylene vials inserted into aluminum jackets to improve contact and enhance thermal transfer. The SPEGIS experiment only requires transfer of the canisters from refrigeration to incubation and then to a freezer to preserve the sample. The SPEGIS experiment will be returned to Earth for analysis by scientists. Since the SPEGIS Canisters are triple-contained and never opened, the crew is never in direct contact with the bacterial cultures.

“We expect the SPEGIS experiment will provide important new information about how microbes adapt to microgravity and the spacecraft environment. These results will lead to a better understanding of these organisms on a molecular level and how their ability to interact with humans may be altered,” said David W. Niesel, the project’s principal investigator and professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, TX.

For more information about the SPEGIS research project, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/science/experiments/SPEGIS.html

For images of the SPEGIS research project, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/centers/ames/multimedia/images/2007/Spegis.html

For more information about NASA and agency programs on the Web, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/home

 

- end -


text-only version of this release

To receive Ames news releases via e-mail, send an e-mail with the word "subscribe" in the subject line to ames-releases-request@lists.arc.nasa.gov. To unsubscribe, send an e-mail to the same address with "unsubscribe" in the subject line.

NASA Image Policies