Analysis of stress responses of micro-algae during space flight
Photosynthetic organisms cultured in photo-bioreactors are key components for biological life support systems and in-situ resource utilization schemes for space and other extreme environments. It is important in such an environment that the photo-bioreactor is reliable even though it is subjected to extreme conditions and stress shocks. The work foreseen in this proposal aims at increasing the reliability of such bioreactors by taking advantage of the fact that a cell culture can recover from a stress shock as long as only a few cells have survived. The photosynthetic organism used for these investigations will be Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, a unicellular eukaryote alga with two flagella. Two different paths will be followed – the first path involves searching for materials that help C. reinhardtii cells survive various kinds of stress shocks and that increases the growth rate of the organism afterwards. The second path involves studying how immobilization methods already in use on Earth are holding up in space environments; in a delta-gravity environment the separation of gas from liquid is hard to achieve without harming cells in the liquid. If the cells, however, are immobilized the liquid can be treated with methods that would otherwise be too aggressive. In a second stage of the research work the materials and methods that were found effective will be studied further, and used to design model photo-bioreactors. This is a joint project with Prof. Dr. Klaus Slenzka and the space flight company OHB-System in Bremen.