Fungi in space: Implications for astronaut health and planetary protection

UK Centre for Astrobiology seminar

Fungi in space: Implications for astronaut health and planetary protection

  • Event time: 1:30pm
  • Event date: 19th March 2019
  • Speaker: Marta Cortesao (DLR)
  • Location: Higgs Centre Seminar Room, Room 4305,

Event details

Aspergillus and Penicillium were the predominant fungal genera detected aboard the Russian Space Station (Mir) as well as the International Space Station (ISS), and fungal growth has been shown to promote biodegradation of spacecraft materials which might compromise life-support systems. Moreover, as spore formers, filamentous fungi are a threat to astronauts’ health, and their resistant spores may pose a threat to planetary protection. These traits together with the ability to form biofilms, makes monitoring and controlling fungal populations a challenge when it comes to current and future space missions. In my PhD thesis I am looking to answer three main questions i) how do filamentous fungi growth and adapt to microgravity? ii) how do fungal spores resist to space radiation? and iii) what is the potential of filamentous fungi for space biotechnology?

Aspergillus niger colony morphology and sporulation were studied after growth in the clinostat, and Penicillium rubens growth, gene expression and biofilm formation in real microgravity will be studied in the project “Biofilm in Space (BFS)” - with the spaceflight experiment aboard the ISS planned to be launched mid 2019. Moreover, studies on the resistance of A. niger towards space radiation have indicated high spore resistance to X-rays. Overall this work marks an important step in the establishment of new methodologies to study filamentous fungi under simulated and real space conditions.

About UK Centre for Astrobiology seminars

The astrobiology seminar series is run by the UK Centre for Astrobiology based in the School of Physics & Astronomy. Astrobiology is a multi-disciplinary subject and the seminar series actively encourages attendance by undergraduates, postgraduates and academic staff from other departments..

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