much more than a drink

Kombucha is in fashion. crowd of influencers advertise their benefits and even the employer Carlos Rios has used it as an ingredient to make its Realfooding Cola soft drink. Such is its boom as new soda healthy that it has even been suggested that astronauts take it into space to have a probiotic drink beneficial to your health. What had not been considered until now is that the same kombucha could help them get cellulose in space.

This proposal is drawn from a study published last March in Frontiers in Microbiology by an international team of scientists. It initially began with the purpose of analyzing the survival on the International Space Station of the microorganisms responsible for the fermentation of kombucha. Many of them couldn’t stand the inhospitable space conditions. Others, however, did manage to get ahead. And among those who did, he highlighted the bacterium Komagataeibacter oboediensknown for its ability to synthesize cellulose.

This was a good idea, as it could be used by future colonizers of space to obtain textile fibers or paper. They might even improve soil conditions for growing food!

The experiment that demonstrates the ‘superpowers’ of kombucha

Kombucha is a drink obtained from the tea fermentation mediated by a very specific group of bacteria and yeasts.

The presence of these ferments make it a very healthy probiotic drink. For some people it is a superfood, although it is more than proven that superfoods do not exist, it is marketing.

A dehydrated kombucha biofilm was sent into space

But those ferments could be useful beyond the gut of its consumers. For this reason, the authors of the study that we are commenting on today decided to send to the International Space Station a dehydrated kombucha biofilm. Biofilms are tapestry-like structures formed by one or more species of microorganisms adhered to a surface. It is, for example, the reason why kitchen cloths become slippery after a while. We don’t see it, but that texture is formed by a biofilm full of bacteria.

On this occasion, the biofilm resulting from dehydrating the kombucha was placed outside the International Space Station, under a Martian-like atmosphere. he stayed there 18 monthsafter which he returned to Earth and it was re-cultivated for two and a half years.

So they saw that many of the microorganisms had succumbed to cosmic radiation and other hostile parameters of space. Nevertheless, K. oboediens could proliferate without problem. And she didn’t just grow up. She was also able to continue synthesizing cellulose.

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not everything was perfect

Notably, this bacterium was not intact. The study authors found that the extrachromosomal genetic material yes it had been affected by radiation. And also the genes that code for proteins associated with CRISPR. Let us not forget that, although this has become a very useful tool in genetic engineering, it is still a defensive mechanism for bacteria.

But neither this defensive mechanism nor extrachromosomal DNA is related to the cellulose synthesis pathway. Therefore, this advantage of taking kombucha to space was still intact.

What is cellulose used for?

The good news of this discovery is that this cellulose could have many applications. We know that cellulose is part of the plant cell walls, hence it can be used to make plant-based products. For example, one could get paper and cotton fibers to make clothes.

But that’s not all, as it could also be used for protect nitrogen fixing organisms that enable the soil to grow plants. And it is that, facing future colonizations of space, kombucha would be much more than a drink to realfooders.