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  • Sara Laura Wilson

RadioFungi: Biological Pigments for Radioprotection

Updated: Jun 8, 2020

Mediated Matter Group at MIT Media Lab

Position: Undergraduate Researcher (UROP)

June 2019 — Present

With the assistance of NanoRacks LLC, our autonomous capsule with liquid and solid

cultures was sent to the ISS by SpaceX CRS-20 via the Dragon cargo ship atop of a Falcon 9 rocket.

Certain bacteria and fungi show a remarkable ability to persist, and even thrive, in high-radiation environments. These include the bacterium Deinococcus radiodurans and the fungus genus Aspergillus. Some of these organisms form biopolymer pigments such as carotenoids and melanins, which are thought to have an important role in the radioresistance of the organisms. For this reason, we are conducting research in space environments to understand the impact of radiation on biological systems and the most effective adaptive strategies. In this work, we examine the growth and behavior of several species while exposed to radiation to determine mechanisms by which they may adapt to these harsh conductions.

Six selected bacteria and fungi were grown on petri dishes in the capsule and imaged over a 30-day period on the ISS in March 2020, during which time they were exposed to extreme ionizing radiation.

Model by Nicolas Hogan.

“RadioFungi” was funded by the SEI-TRISH Grant (Space Exploration Initiative-Translational Research Institute for Space Health) in Summer 2019.

Direct supervisor: Sunanda Sharma

PI: Neri Oxman

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