Space Biofilms

I am happy to share with you my first space project called “Space Biofilms”  launched to the International Space Station (ISS) in november 2019!

  • Funding agency: NASA
  • Principal Investigator (PI): Luis Zea

Biofilms are complex, resistant structures formed by microorganisms: from bacteria to fungi. These biofilms are found almost everywhere on Earth: on our teeth, in water systems, in medical instruments, on our bathtubs, etc.  Biofilms were also found aboard the ISS: either contaminating their onboard-grown lettuce or clogging the urinal-recycling system.


Goal:  In a long-term space mission, it would be desirable that biofilms can be monitored and controlled, of course to reduce systems maintenance and increase efficiency and reliability!

Two main “space microbes” that form biofilms will be studied: Pseudomonas aeruginosa, –a Gram-negative bacteria; and Penicillium rubens (or Penicillium chrysogenum) – a filamentous fungus (mold).

The science part will mainly consist on

1) growing the organisms on the ISS where they will be exposed to microgravity (or near weightlessness) and on Earth, where they are exposed to normal 1g gravity.

2) characterizing biofilm growth both in a morphological and genetic level.

Check the Space Biofilms official website here.


Zea, L., Nisar, Z., Rubin, P., Cortesão, M., Luo, J., McBride, S. A., Moeller, R., Klaus, D., Mueller, D., Varanasi, K., K., Muecklich, F., Stodieck, L. (2018). Design of a spaceflight biofilm experiment. Acta Astronautica 148 (294-300)

Cortesao, M., Luo, J., Mueller, D., Nisar, Z., Muecklich, F., Hemmersbach, R., Hellweg, C., Zea, L., Moeller, R., Growth and biofilm formation of Penicillium chrysogenum  in simulated microgravity, American Society for Gravitational and Space Research (ASGSR), Seattle, WA, October 24-28, 2017

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