Group picture of the participants at the VAAM Microbiome Symposium 2022. Copyright DLR
2. January 2023
The VAAM Microbiome Symposium on "Space Research meets Medical Microbiology" celebrated its premiere in December 2022 and was organized by the VAAM special group Space-Microbiology, supported by DLR, Bonn University Hospital, Cologne University Hospital, Kliniken der Stadt Köln gGmbH and Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences (Microbiome Center).
Thanks to the support of VAAM and the evaluation of an independent jury, prizes could be awarded for the best short presentations and posters. Among them, some prizes went to the Department of Radiation Biology (ME-SBA): the third presentation prize was awarded to Alena Warkentin (Bachelor student AG Aerospace Microbiology) for her contribution on the gut microbiome of a NASA-DLR bed rest study. She showed in her presentation that the gut microbiome is an important factor when it comes to health. Therefore, this aspect also becomes important when it comes to a (long-term) stay in space. One way to study the gut microbiome in extreme situations is, for example, the SANS study, in which subjects lie in -6° head-down position to simulate weightlessness.
The first place of the poster contributions was taken by Afonso Mota (Master student AG Aerospace Microbiology). His poster showed that of the more than 5000 planets discovered in the universe, only a few have the potential to harbor life as we know it. He is investigating how microorganisms (bacteria and fungi) survive around exoplanets and whether melanin pigments can be used as biosignatures to give us important insights into how life can survive outside our solar system and how we can find it on future missions to detect life.
An honorable mention went to Johanna Piepjohn (master's student AG Astrobiology). She presented a poster with an update on her master's thesis, which is on sample preparation for a microscopy experiment (FLUMIAS) in space. This space experiment aims to study bacterial conjugation in µ-gravity compared to conjugation in gravity. The poster presented showed that the technical constraints imposed by the space microscope and industry make such a study possible and that E. coli, the chosen Gram-negative model organism, becomes sessile, fixed on a surface, under certain conditions.