Last April, Yarmouk University in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan successfully launched a space mission consisting of a space balloon carrying microbial samples to a height of 32.5 km above sea level, as it reached the first layer in low space orbit, where the zone of zero gravity, in cooperation with The British KSF Space Foundation.
space capsule flight
Al Jazeera Net has followed up this research work since its inception in a report published last year. According to the meticulously drawn research plan, some samples of microorganisms (bacterial strains that do not cause diseases to humans) with scientifically defined and genomic sequence information were prepared and uploaded in the research project laboratory at the Department of Biological Sciences of Yarmouk University, under the supervision of the project manager and principal researcher. Prof. Dr. Hanan Issa Malkawi, bacterial species and their genetic systems were exposed in a controlled environment inside a space capsule (through KSF Space Foundation).
The space capsule is a pressurized unit equipped with life support systems, where microorganisms are protected from most of the harsh conditions that they can be exposed to in space except for “microgravity”, and therefore the changes that may occur in the physiology of microbes at cellular levels Or genetics are often attributed to the effect of microgravity.
According to Professor Malkawi, the space capsule – which carried and transported samples of bacteria and genetic material isolated from these samples – was launched from the United Kingdom into space, where it reached a height beyond the atmosphere and the first layer in low orbit.
She indicated that the capsule returned to Earth a day after its launch, and these biological samples were studied and analyzed in the research laboratory at Yarmouk University immediately after the flight.
Encouraging preliminary results
The preliminary results obtained indicate the ability of these microorganisms to withstand the harsh zero-gravity conditions in the outer space environment, their growth and reproduction. Research is still underway in the study and extensive and accurate analysis on several levels of the behavior of living bacterial cells and their genetic system isolated from them after their launch in the space capsule and their exposure to outer space, and their return to Earth.
Professor Malkawi and her research team are currently in the laboratory studying and analyzing these bacterial samples physiologically to determine their ability to grow, and analyzing their DNA to determine the types of mutations created at the genetic level after they were exposed to the conditions of zero gravity in outer space.
Dr. Malkawi says – in a statement to Al Jazeera Net via social media – “microorganisms will be an inevitable component of space missions, mostly because they move either associated with space technology, such as ships and space stations or space suits for astronauts, or with transferred organic materials, Even inside astronauts’ bodies, what is known as the human microbiome.
The Jordanian scientist asserts that she and her research team have obtained surprising preliminary results indicating the ability of microbial cells to withstand the space environment and their ability to live and grow after being exposed to that harsh environment.
The research team is currently seeking to document and publish all research results in an international scientific journal after completing the detailed study and analyzing the research results.
The importance of this project
The results of this research are expected to help understand how physical forces affect microorganisms at the cellular, molecular and evolutionary level, which can be transferred to future studies of other organisms, including plants, animals and humans.
Commenting on the scientific importance of this project, Professor Malkawi said – in her statement to Al Jazeera Net – “Understanding how these microorganisms adapt to space conditions will help in developing strategies to mitigate the risks posed by disease-causing microorganisms to the health of crew members, such as immunodeficiency and other problems.” health”.
“Understanding how space conditions alter microbial processes in industrially important microorganisms will provide us with information on how to genetically engineer these microbes to efficiently produce important beneficial compounds,” she adds.
Malkawi added, “This leads us to conduct scientific research to answer several questions, including: Do we explore space with microorganisms? Do these organisms adapt to harsh space conditions, especially in the absence of gravity, as well as humans? Do these organisms become more virulent and pathogenic during the process?” “Finally, are there practical benefits to humanity for such adaptive or genetically modified organisms?”
Supporting applied research in space
It is noteworthy that Professor Hanan Issa Malkawi is currently working in the Department of Life Sciences at Yarmouk University, and she holds a PhD in microorganisms and molecular biology, and a master’s degree in bacteriology and public health, both from Washington State University.
It has distinguished research achievements in the fields of biotechnology and nanotechnology and its applications in medicine, environment, agriculture, food and industry, and has more than 70 research published in prestigious international journals and a number of patents.