Nanobacteria: Astronauts at Highest Risk During Space Missions

February 25, 2005

NASA researchers announce a potential cause of rapid kidney stone formation in astronauts on space travels. The authors of a study published in Kidney International call for a "Major Initiative" to investigate nanobacteria.
Nanobacteria (NB), a novel self-replicating, mineralizing agent, has been identified by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientists as a potential culprit in kidney stone formation among astronauts. With the potential for future exploratory space missions to the moon and Mars, longer missions, and exposure to the elements of outer space, health is a major concern for astronauts.

To further comprehend the implications of NB, trials were conducted at NASA to examine NB, in a bioreactor chamber which simulates conditions of space travel. In this microgravity environment, NB was found to multiply five times faster compared to normal gravity on Earth, supporting earlier discoveries that microbes have radically different behavior in weightless environments. NB is also shown to possibly be an infectious risk for crew members living in close quarters.

"The concept that nanobacteria are living organisms is still controversial because the research on their putative nucleic acid has not been completed yet," states lead researcher Neva Ciftcioglu, Ph.D. However, the group's research provides additional clues to understanding NB and its link to pathologic calcification-related diseases.

"Hopefully, eradication or treatment of these diseases will be possible in the near future. We need more research and support to solve this puzzle, but we feel that we are close," adds Ciftcioglu.

NB was discovered in the 1990s and has been found in the calcium phosphate centers of kidney stones. This novel agent has also been detected in related conditions, including Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, prostatitis, and some cancers. Further testing for the presence of NB in human bodies can help reduce the risk for kidney stone formation in astronauts and would also be of benefit to the nearly one million Americans who are treated for kidney stones each year.

Source: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Explore further: Gravity, who needs it? NASA studies your body in space

Related Stories

Gravity, who needs it? NASA studies your body in space

November 18, 2015

What happens to your body in space? NASA's Human Research Program has been unfolding answers for over a decade. Space is a dangerous, unfriendly place. Isolated from family and friends, exposed to radiation that could increase ...

A Cyborg Space Race

April 6, 2010

Who should explore space: robots or humans? Our ability to travel beyond Earth is hampered by the harsh conditions of space, but rather than let robots have all the fun, could cyborg technology allow humans to make greater ...

International Space Station Expedition 11 Moving Full Speed

May 8, 2005

Commander Sergei Krikalev and Flight Engineer John Phillips are moving full speed ahead into their Expedition 11 maintenance and science work aboard the International Space Station. Krikalev replaced a liquid processing component ...

Spinning blood device set to safeguard astronaut health

November 14, 2011

( -- ESA has begun developing a new blood-testing device for astronauts on the International Space Station. A wide range of ailments from diabetes to heart disease should be diagnosable in moments from a single ...

To keep fit in space, train like an athlete

June 13, 2007

If one part of your car isn't properly maintained, it can affect how the entire vehicle runs – especially if you're taking a long trip. The same can be said for the human body. That’s why, when it comes to fitness in ...

Space station mission has changed

July 11, 2006

It's been 22 years since U.S. President Ronald Reagan proposed building the International Space Station, but its mission has since radically changed.

Recommended for you

Trap-jaw ants exhibit previously unseen jumping behavior

December 1, 2015

A species of trap-jaw ant has been found to exhibit a previously unseen jumping behavior, using its legs rather than its powerful jaws. The discovery makes this species, Odontomachus rixosus, the only species of ant that ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.