Baby Squid and Tardigrades Going Into Space


No, we are not starting aquariums in space. These animals will join the astronauts aboard the International Space Station for research purposes.

Some 5,000 Tardigrades, also known as Water Bears, and 128 Baby Glow-in-the-Dark Bobtail Squid will be among the precious cargo to be taken to the station. Both will be involved in experiments there. The first would be to see how the water bears tolerate the environment. Researchers also want to know whether the lack of gravity affects the symbiotic relationship between squid and beneficial microbes.

Hundreds of scientific experiments are conducted daily on the space station; It is a circulating laboratory, after all. Astronauts oversee these experiments and report their observations to researchers on Earth. Research helps us gain a better understanding of life in zero gravity as well as discover the benefits that can be applied to the Earth.

Water bears in space

Under the microscope, the small tardigrade looks like a water bear. Although they are generally found in water – and sometimes, serving as nemesis in “Ant-Man and the Wasp” – the Tardigrades are known for their ability to survive and even That grow even in the most extreme environments.

“Tardigreds are a group of microscopic animals renowned for their ability to survive many extreme stresses,” said Thomas Boothby, assistant professor of molecular biology at the University of Wyoming and lead investigator of the Cell Science-04 Tardigrade experiment. Press conference Wednesday.

“Some things that a tardigrade can survive include drying, freezing and heating before the boiling point of water. They can survive thousands of times as much radiation as we can and they can go on for days or weeks. Someone No oxygen. “

They can tolerate these extremes better than most forms of life, and what is more extreme than space? This is not the first time Tardigrade has gone into space – and there Some of them can be on the moon After a mission carrying them crashed on its surface.

“They have been shown to survive and breed during spaceflight, and can even survive prolonged exposure to the vacuum of outer space,” Boothby said.

Scientists are able to sequence the tardigrade genome, so they can actually measure how these microscopic animals are affected by different environmental conditions depending on their gene expression.

When this organism encounters deadly radiation, the only option is to shine

Boothby’s experiment is designed to see how tardigrades adapt to life in low-Earth orbit, which can lead to greater understanding of the stresses faced by humans in space. The research studies the molecular biology of water bears for both short-term, such as water bears that stay at the station for seven days to see their immediate adaptation, as well as long-term ones. These multi-generation water bears can help scientists understand the genetics behind adaptation and survival in highly stressful environments.

Even though space stations are more protective than those present in deep space, human and animal experiments are subject to reduced gravity and increased radiation exposure.

“Understanding how to protect astronauts and other organisms from these stresses will be necessary to ensure a safe and productive long-term space presence,” Boothby said.

Tardigrades will arrive at the station in a frozen lifeless state, then they will be melted, resurrected and grown in a specialized bio-farming system.

Short and long-term study results should allow researchers to see which genes are being switched on or off to help tardigrades survive.

For example, if researchers determine that tardigrades are producing a lot of antioxidants that can help them cope with the level of radiation they are experiencing, it may tell researchers that astronauts are more antioxidant- There is a need to eat rich diet.

“Ultimately this information will give us insight into how one of the toughest creatures on Earth is able to survive the rigors of a spacecraft,” Boothby said. “And our hope is that these insights will provide avenues for developing countermeasures or treatments that will help protect astronauts during long-term space missions.”

Celestial umami

Astronauts are about to experience a bit of umami in space, not the kind they can taste.

The UMAMI experiment is intended to understand microgravity on animal microbe interactions and Professor Jamie Foster in the Department of Microbiology and Cell Science at the University of Florida is its principal investigator. He looks forward to seeing how healthy beneficial germs communicate with the tissues of animals in space.

The image shows juvenile bobtail squid swimming in seawater after hatching.  T

“Animals, including humans, rely on our microbes to maintain a healthy digestion and immune system,” said Foster. “We do not fully understand how spaceflight alters these beneficial interactions. The Umami experiment uses a glow-in-the-dark bobtail squid to address these important issues in animal health.”

The Bobtail squid, which is only about three millimeters long, serves as an ideal model to study it for two reasons. These squids have a special light organ inside the body that can be colonized by a species of luminescent bacteria. The squid can then use that bacterium to glow in the dark. Because it is a species of bacteria and a type of host tissue, it is easy for researchers to follow how this process unfolds, Foster said.

Squid also has an immune system that is similar to the type of humans.

“We can draw a lot of parallels with how the immune system is reacting to these beneficial microbes in the space environment,” Foster said.

Micro crater that can survive almost anything

Squid are born without bacteria, so they have to get it from their environment. Experimenting humans will initiate this symbiosis by adding bacteria to animals and see what happens during the first few hours of colonization.

Squid will be part of a fully autonomous experiment that looks like a box. Pumps will pour water or bacteria when needed, or drain water when needed.

The squid will be frozen at the tissue station and later return to Earth, preserving the molecular timeline from which the genes were shut down and, for Squid, similar to the Tardigrade experiment.

Researchers will be able to find out if the spacecraft changes the mutually beneficial relationship between animals and their microbes.

“As astronauts explore space, they are carrying a company of various microbial species with them,” Foster said. “And it’s really important to understand how those microbes collectively called the microbiome change the space environment and how those relationships are established.”

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