Home / Science / NASA funds research to create "bacterial factories" for space missions of the future

NASA funds research to create "bacterial factories" for space missions of the future

As humanity continues to advance into space, there will be an increasing demand for high-efficiency technologies that can recycle on-board resources to produce essential supplies for long-term missions.

Now, a team of scientists has described a new technique that could possibly serve such a purpose, according to the NASA-funded study that was presented today at the Spring 2019 Spring 2019 American Chemical Society (2019).

Thanks to recent developments in the field of synthetic biology, the team led by Fuzhong Zhang of Washington University in St. Louis has found a way to mold bacteria into spider silk and other hard-to-produce proteins Which could be useful in future space missions.

Spider silk is one of several protein-based substances that have evolved in nature and whose properties even compete with ̵

1; and often surpass – even the most advanced artificial materials. Spider silk, for example, is pound for pound stronger and tougher than steel. Unlike steel, however, it can not be made on a large scale, which limits its usefulness to humans.

"In nature, there are many protein-based materials that have amazing mechanical properties, but the supply of these materials is very often limited," Zhang said in a statement. "My lab is interested in developing microbes so we can not only make these materials, but make them even better."

If we could produce the material on a large scale, it could be used in all areas of surgery. Sutures on bulletproof fabric. The problem is that individual spiders do not produce large amounts of it, and keeping a considerable number of animals together often leads to cannibalism.

To circumvent this problem, several research groups have previously tried to add spider DNA to various surrogate organisms – such as bacteria, yeasts, and even goats – so they can produce the silk themselves. So far, however, the resulting material has never been comparable to true spun silk.

This is because the DNA responsible for the production of spider silk proteins is very unstable when introduced into another organism, as the sequences are very long and long repetitive. So Zhang and his team tried the long and repetitive Break up DNA sequences into small chunks that could be incorporated into bacteria. These bacteria were able to produce small amounts of spider silk protein, which could then be spun into longer fibers using a special technique.

The material that the team developed was very similar to natural spider silk and showed incredible strength and toughness and extensibility. In addition, they were able to produce up to two grams of silk per liter of bacteria – a considerable amount – and they hope to further increase yields.

Synthetic spider silk could be particularly useful for future long-term space missions, according to Zhang. "NASA is one of our backers and they are interested in organic production," he said.

"They are currently developing technologies to convert carbon dioxide into carbohydrates that could be used to nourish the microbes." We're in the technology, so astronauts could make these protein-based materials in space without a lot of space

In addition, the technology developed by researchers may also be used to make other protein-based materials could be useful here on Earth. For example, from mussels they have formed a protein that strongly adheres to surfaces even under water. Spider silk, Bacteria rope factory

 Spider silk, bacterial rope factory [19659014] Spider silk proteins that can be spun into strong fibers. </span> <span class= Christopher Bowen