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Researchers at Tel Aviv University have shown that CRISPR can be used to accurately and reliably identify viruses and bacteria that infect crew members during spaceflight in conditions of almost complete absence of gravity.
CRISPR systems — these are the defense systems of bacteria against viruses. Bacteria use CRISPR-Cas systems as a kind of molecular “search engine” to find viral sequences and split them, rendering viruses harmless.
The study was led by Dr. Dudu Burshtein of the School of Biomedicine and cancer research. Shmunis of Tel Aviv University and Dr. Gur Pines of the Volkani Institute.
The experiment was carried out on the International Space Station (ISS) by astronaut Eitan Stibbe as part of the Rakia mission launched into space in April by the Ramon Foundation and the Israel Space Agency. The Pathogen Recognition System Test Kit was launched with Eitan Stibbe on the ISS.
As part of their scientific vision, the researchers hypothesized that genetic diagnosis using this method, which requires minimal and easily manageable equipment, may be suitable for long-term space missions, for example to the ISS, or for future missions to explore the Moon and Mars.
“Conditions in space are extremely problematic and treatments are limited, so it is essential to identify pathogens in a fast, reliable and simple way.” ;, — explains Burshtein.
Tests such as PCR require trained personnel and relatively sophisticated equipment. With the CRISPR-Cas system, this process can be done in one tiny test tube, so it should be sufficient for the needs of astronauts.
Photo: Ramon Foundation, Israel Space Agency
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