FP trendMarch 17, 2021 12:56:31 PM IST
A recent study indicates that four strains of bacteria have been discovered on the International Space Station (ISS). Three of the bacterial strains are new and were previously unknown to science. The ISS is a low Earth orbit (LEO) orbital laboratory that has seen many astronauts travel to maintain the station and perform science experiments in its microgravity environment. Over the past six years, astronauts from different crews have collected samples from eight spots on the space station, looking for the presence of microbes. According to a CNN report, the last bacterial strains come from Methylobacteria family.
The four strains discovered belong to a family of bacteria found in soil and freshwater, but scientists only knew Methylorubrum rhodesianum. Thanks to their findings, the researchers discovered that the other three microbes are relatives of Methylobacterium indicum – a bacteria isolated from rice which can use basic one-carbon compounds like methanol or methane as a carbon source to grow. Bacteria are involved in nitrogen fixation, where molecular nitrogen (N2) in the air is converted to ammonia (NH4) and in plant growth, and can repel pathogens from plants. Scientists believe the bacteria will be useful for the growth of plants in space – a useful tool for future astronauts who live in space for long periods of time.
Stating that the new strains could have “biotechnologically useful genetic determinants,” the scientists said isolating new microbes that help plants grow under unfavorable conditions is essential. NASA researchers Kasthuri Venkateswaran and Nitin Kumar Singh worked on the research, the statement said. Both are stationed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, where Kasthuri is a principal investigator and Nitin is a planetary protection engineer.
In honor of Indian scientist Ajmal Khan, researchers voted to name the new strains of bacteria Methylobacterium ajmalii, according to a Voice of America report. Along with Venkateswaran and Singh, researchers from the University of Southern California, Cornell University and the University of Hyderabad also participated in the study.
It was published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Frontiers in microbiology March 15.