The Barcelona-based Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) signed an agreement with Yuri, a commercial space biotech company in Germany, to study microgravity in space and its impact on human health, cells, and plant biology.
“In microgravity, certain biological processes can be accelerated, leading to the rapid maturation of organisms. This can be useful in many different life science fields, for example agriculture and food production research, as well as for drug discovery and treatment of various diseases,” explains Daniela Bezdan, PhD, Yuri’s CSO.
The collaboration will initially focus on the potential of bacteria to survive and thrive in space environments. Eventually, the researchers expect to leverage the extreme conditions in space to create new strains of “space bacteria,” a process that could lead to the creation of materials and products with industrial applications ranging from new sources of energy to food production.
The collaboration will begin by analyzing strains of space bacteria that have been sourced from the International Space Station, with the samples expected to return for analysis to Barcelona on April 15.
One small step for space biology, one giant leap for the CRG
The projects will be guided by Bezdan, and Yuri researchers will join the research team of Roderic Guigó, PhD, at the CRG. Guigó is group leader in the computational biology and health genomics research program.
“With the launch of its nanosatellite program, Catalonia is already emerging as a new player in the space economy,” notes Guigó. “This collaboration will help partner our growing local expertise with ambitious global innovators with the objective of comprehensively understanding how extreme environments shape biology at the fundamental level. The long-term success of humanity may depend on it.”
The collaboration is part of a wider trend of researchers using microgravity environments to learn more about the way the world around us works for the benefit of life on Earth. Microgravity experiments have already led to important advances in many other fields such as material sciences through the creation of metals with unique mechanical and chemical properties for use in catalysts or turbine blades in jet engines.
“This commercial agreement is one small step for space biology but one giant leap for the Centre for Genomic Regulation,” notes Luis Serrano, director of the CRG. “Open, affordable access to experiments in low-orbit space offers are ushering in an exciting new era of research in space, and Barcelona will play a role in that.”