Streptococcus pneumoniae Expression of Genes in Space (SPEGIS) - 05.13.15

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Streptococcus pneumoniae Expression of Gene in Space (SPEGIS) will examine the behavior and growth of bacteria in microgravity and investigate the effects of the space environment on the gene expression, protein production, and virulence of the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae. The data collected will also provide insight on what types of bacterial infections may occur during long-duration space missions and the risks to crew members.
Science Results for Everyone
This study looks at the effects of space on gene expression, protein production, and strength of Streptococcus pneumonia, a bacteria common in the human body. Researchers expect data to provide information on the danger from pathogens in the space environment, and help to develop diagnostic tools to monitor the atmosphere and surfaces for their presence. Results also provide insight on what types of bacterial infections may occur on long space missions and the risks to crew members. This recently completed investigation is undergoing data analysis, with results still pending.

The following content was provided by David W. Niesel, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details

OpNom:

Principal Investigator(s)
David W. Niesel, Ph.D., University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX, United States

Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)
Information Pending

Developer(s)
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD)

Research Benefits
Information Pending

ISS Expedition Duration
April 2007 - October 2007

Expeditions Assigned
15

Previous ISS Missions
While SPEGIS is a new experiment, other studies of microbial virulence have been conducted aboard ISS.

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • During spaceflight, as well as on Earth, humans risk infection that is caused by bacteria.


  • This investigation will examine gene and protein expression of Streptococcus pneumoniae (a bacteria that is normally found living in the human body) are effected by microgravity.


  • Data from SPEGIS is anticipated to provide information on the threat of opportunistic pathogens in the space environment, which will assist in the development of diagnostic tools to monitor the atmosphere and surfaces (air, soil, and food) for the presence of these microbes.

Description
The Streptococcus pneumoniae Expression of Genes in Space (SPEGIS) experiment investigated S. pneumoniae gene expression and protein production in the space environment. S. pneumoniae is an important human pathogen (disease causing) and the leading cause of bacterial pneumonia (inflammation of the lungs with congestion), meningitis (inflammation of the membrane covering the brain and spinal cord), and otitis media (ear infection). Importantly, this pathogen has been isolated previously from the crew preflight and related bacteria are found in the spacecraft environment. Experiments were performed to identify and characterize S. pneumoniae genes and proteins, which are differentially expressed in response to the space environment and compare microgravity-induced genes and proteins to those expressed during postflight rodent infection.

S. pneumoniae is a respiratory microbe normally found in the upper respiratory tract of approximately 40 percent of the healthy human population. The identification of specific S. pneumoniae virulence factors and cellular and molecular processes may aid scientists in furthering the understanding of how this bacteria causes infection. This data may aid in the design and development of new antimicrobial drugs. This experimental approach will result in new information about a significant human pathogen, add to our knowledge about the S. pneumoniae pathogenic mechanism, and also provide basic information on the bacterial model system of gene and protein expression in the space environment.

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Applications

Space Applications
Identification of the global genetic responses undergone by S. pneumoniae in reaction to space will enable this single-flight experiment to determine if the spacecraft environment exerts a selective pressure on microbial contaminants, leading to increased virulence and contributing to increased health risks to the crew. Results from SPEGIS will also provide information on the threat of opportunistic pathogens in the space environment, which will assist in the development of diagnostic tools to monitor the atmosphere and surfaces (air, soil, and food) for the presence of these microbes. Further, identification of spaceflight alterations to genes and proteins involved in bacterial proliferation and mutation will provide targets for pharmacological intervention, which will ultimately facilitate long-term exploration of the Moon and Mars.

Earth Applications
Analyzing and understanding the mechanisms utilized by S. pneumoniae to adapt to microgravity will likely lead to the development of novel methods to combat newly emerging drug-resistant strains, which could greatly assist in disease prevention and management on Earth.

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Operations

Operational Requirements
Vials containing bacterial cultures will be loaded into the SPEGIS Canister Assembly. A total of three canisters will be flown on the space shuttle. Each Canister contains three 8 ml polypropylene vials. The vials are inserted into vial jackets to improve contact and enhance thermal transfer. The compression pad eliminates space between the vials and canister lid.

Operational Protocols
The SPEGIS payload will be launched while stored at +4 degrees C in the Microgravity Environment Research Locker/INcubator (MERLIN). After the orbiter docks with the ISS, the canisters will be transferred to the Minus Eighty Laboratory Freezer for ISS (MELFI) for +2 degrees C cold stowage. For the on-orbit incubation phase, the canisters will be transferred back to MERLIN and then incubated at +37.5 degrees C. After incubation, the canisters will be transferred back to MELFI for -95 degrees C cryopreservation. The samples will be returned to Earth while stored in the Double Coldbag with ICEPACs at -32 degrees C, which will maintain the integrity of the frozen samples for post-flight analysis by the investigator.

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Results/More Information

SPEGIS is a recently completed investigation which is undergoing data analysis, final results are pending. (Evans et al. 2009)

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Results Publications

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Ground Based Results Publications

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ISS Patents

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Related Publications

    Allen CA, Galindo CI, Pandya U, Watson DA, Chopra AK, Niesel DW.  Transcription profiles of Streptococcus pneumoniae grown under different conditions of normal gravitation. Acta Astronautica. 2007; 60(4-7): 433-44.

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Related Websites
Streptococcus pneumoniae Expression of Genes in Space (SPEGIS) Photos
Space shuttle brings strep bacteria back for UTMB study

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Imagery

image Scanning Electron Micrograph of Streptococcus pneumoniae (x14,520). Provided by Phillips, D.M., New England Journal of Medicine, 1993 Aug 12; 329(7):477. Image courtesy of NASA, Johnson Space Center.
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image Top view of the SPEGIS sample container, showing the three sample vials. Image courtesy of NASA, Johnson Space Center.
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image SPEGIS sample container, vials and vial jackets. Image courtesy of NASA, Johnson Space Center.
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image NASA Image - S118E06151: STS-118/13A.1 Missions Specialist, Astronaut Barbara Morgan is in the process of transferring the samples for the Streptococcus pneumoniae Expression of Gene in Space (SPEGIS) investigation to the ISS for storage.
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image NASA Image - S118E06158: STS-118/13A.1 Missions Specialist, Astronaut Barbara Morgan is inserting the samples for the SPEGIS investigation into the Minus Eighty-Degree Laboratory Freezer for ISS (MELFI) for storage during the mission.
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image Ames Research Center scientist demonstrate loading bacteria into vials. Photo Credit: NASA Ames Research Center/Dominic Hart.
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image A scientist loads a vial into the SPEGIS canister. In the background, the vials are stored in a four degree C Labtop cooler. Photo Credit: NASA Ames Research Center/Dominic Hart.
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image The assembled SPEGIS canisters are placed into the torque tool. Photo Credit: NASA Ames Research Center/Dominic Hart.
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