New Method to Enhance Microbe Viability for Space and Extreme Environments


New Method to Enhance Microbe Viability for Space and Extreme Environments

by Sophie Jenkins

London, UK (SPX) Jul 10, 2024






Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and MIT have developed a novel technique to ensure microbial therapeutics remain effective under extreme conditions. These advancements are pivotal for applications in space exploration, healthcare, and agriculture.



Extremophiles, microorganisms thriving in harsh environments like Yellowstone’s hot springs and Antarctica’s icy depths, offer insights into life’s resilience on Earth and beyond. Although microbes have been used for food and medicine production for millennia, modern applications struggle to keep these microbial products viable through production, transport, and storage.



The research team, from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and MIT, aimed to develop shelf-stable synthetic extremophiles for use in treating gastrointestinal and metabolic diseases and in space missions. By combining microbes with various materials, they created formulations that endure extreme temperatures, harsh manufacturing processes, and radiation without needing refrigeration. The findings are published in *Nature Materials*.



“This ability to stabilize potential therapeutics or other interventions could be transformative in a variety of settings including health care, agriculture, and space exploration,” said corresponding author Giovanni Traverso, MD, PhD, MBBCH, a gastroenterologist in Brigham’s Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Endoscopy and MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. “We have found that this can be done without the need for temperature-controlled supply chain processes, which can be very costly and limiting.”



Traverso’s lab focuses on stabilizing medicines and enhancing their absorption in the GI tract. They recently examined over-the-counter probiotics and discovered a significant discrepancy between labeled and actual viable content, prompting the development of synthetic extremophiles.



The team tested over 2,000 material-microbe combinations, identifying unique stabilizers for three bacterial strains and one yeast. These microbes, essential for treating diseases and improving crop production, were mixed with FDA-approved safe ingredients. The formulations were subjected to processes like freezing, drying, milling, and wet granulation to optimize their stability and viability.



These formulations were also tested for shelf-stability at room temperature and resistance to high temperatures, pressure, solvents, and ionizing radiation. The results showed that the microbes not only survived but maintained their effectiveness over time without refrigeration. Examples include a bacterium effective against traveler’s diarrhea and another used in nitrogen fixation for crops.



The researchers are now working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to explore these formulations for women’s health and neonatal care. “This approach has the potential to influence and inform our ability to deploy very useful microbes across a range of areas,” said Traverso.



Research Report:Synthetic extremophiles: Species-specific formulations for microbial therapeutics and beyond


Related Links

Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Lands Beyond Beyond – extra solar planets – news and science
Life Beyond Earth



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