NASA is sending a Superbug to the Space Station

NASA ISSAn antibiotic resistant superbug will be launched by NASA from the Cape Canaveral launch pad using a SpaceX Facon 9 rocket to the international space station. The superbug is Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA, sometimes called a staph. This is resistant to a lot of antibiotics, including antibiotic methicillin. It is known to cause a variety of diseases in humans, including pneumonia, skin and bloodstream infections, and sepsis.

Mutations in Zero Gravity

The main objective is to study the MRSA in zero gravity situations so that we can understand how it mutates and becomes resistant to antibiotics. Working alongside NASA is lead researcher Dr. Anita Goel. Goel is the chairwoman and CEO of her company and lab, Nanobiosym. The company has been known to make breakthroughs in biomedicine, physics and nanotechnology. Goel is also interested to see the changes in the gene expression patterns of this bacteria.

The Space Station is essentially a lab

It might seem like an impeding apocalyptic situation, but many experiments are actually carried out in the space station each day. Multiple research has been done in bacteria in zero gravity or micro gravity environments. The ISS itself has a “microbiome” of bacteria based on the comings and goings of astronauts. In 2016, DNA was sequenced for the first time aboard the station.

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“The DNA is like a piano. The info in the DNA sequence is only part of what makes the music of an organism,” Goel said. “The info embedded in the environment interplays with what is embedded in the DNA sequence, and together, they determine the music that the organism plays.”

ISS will be used as an accelerator and an incubator to understand the mutations of the bacteria. By studying MRSA, we can also develop better algorithms to make faster and smarter drugs that can be used to target other bugs or strains.

Source: Fox 6 Now


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