Research Proposal On Astrobiology – Research Proposal Example

Research Proposal on Astrobiology for PhD (generic for multiple programs, per instructions) Astrobiology is important in understanding the history ofearth. It plays a role in explaining the origins of life. It also contributes important ideas to many fields of science such as biotechnology and biosecurity. Astrobiologists concern themselves with both existential and practical questions in science. These professionals come from many different fields and often work in collaboration with other experts on exciting and dynamic topics. Their projects have the potential to unearth the that our universe holds and to provide valuable new tools that can be applied to research in many fields, such as unique compounds and assay methods used by aerospace and biotechnology researchers, respectively. My original work involved observing the way that a single macromolecule could influence amazing metabolic changes in the avian inner ear. As an astrobiologist, I can apply the tools I have mastered over the course of this project to examine exciting organisms that may provide advances to science’s understanding of life in extreme conditions.
Objectives of astrobiology include assessment of the potential of ubiquitously critical biomolecules, such as amino acids, to form and assemble in the interstellar medium and potential for the survival of existent organisms under interstellar conditions [4]. Assessing organisms from extreme environmental niches that exhibit unusual cellular physiological responses has direct relevance to astrobiological study of organisms [7]. Of particular interest are organisms such as barophillic eukaryotes capable of surviving extreme pressures [10]. These organisms demonstrate unique metabolic processes when exposed to pressure change, such as acidification of cellular structures [1]. Isolation and characterization of the enzymatic activity of these organisms may provide pivotal clues to physiological changes in organisms subjected to galactic cosmic radiation, microgravity, UV radiation of solar origin, and vacuum conditions.
Organisms such as viruses, bacterial cells, bacterial and fungal spores, and lichens have demonstrated sustained viability when exposed to orbital high atmosphere conditions for up to two weeks, supporting the theory that interstellar transport is possible for microorganisms via anorganic vectors such as meteorites, as suggested by the lithopanspermia hypothesis [5]. The full range of solar UV radiation is only experienced well outside of the earth’s atmosphere, and thin layers of anorganic material offer little to no protection, purporting that significant amounts of material would be necessary for protection of living organisms during interstellar transport [9]. Some microorganisms have been shown to quickly adapt to extreme environments such as microgravity, becoming also radiation resistance and persistant under oligotrophic conditions, giving clues to how organisms might survive such transport [2].
Intense solar UV exposure remains the primary challenge in interstellar organism transfer, with demonstrable affects on microorganisms such as the Spores of Bacillus subtilis, an organism shown to undergo structural DNA and protein alterations upon exposure to simulated interstellar conditions resulting in supersentivity to UV radiation [6]. Advances in small-molecule production from multiple cell lines suggest that it is possible to artificially create synthetic pathways capable of adapting to changing environments [12]. Techniques for the rapid detection of mammalian cell damage, such as fluorometric analysis of DNA unwinding (FADU assay) may prove useful in the cellular bioassay based of organisms under extreme conditions in order to observe possible alternate pathways [3].
Previous research involving the down-regulation of certain tumor suppressor homologues in avian species has revealed that signaling pathways initiated by dephosphorylation of a single protein complex can initiate physiological transformation of eukaryotic cellular structures unlike those normally seen in mammalian systems [13]. In organisms adapted to extreme niche environments, such as barophillic microorganisms, study of deviant pathways stimulated by simulated interstellar conditions is an extremely provoking topic of research in astrobiology. Additionally, viable adaptive synthetic pathways may possible through intentional engineering of cell lines with barophillic and other extreme niche organisms after these pathways are characterized as their genetic sources isolated.
Recent discovery of probable micro-biofossils attained through cryo-sampling of space dust in the stratosphere suggests new directions for astrobiological studies, offering superior specimens to carbonaceous chondrites for comparison with earthly cultivable organisms. Additional information on organisms exhibiting tolerance to interstellar conditions may be gained from comparison of these bio-fossils that exhibit properties of diatoms with sizes ranging from 1µm to 10µm in size, possible suggesting unique synthetic pathways for exploration [8]. These discoveries gain particular relevance if oceans of liquid water are common in extra-terrestrial planetary systems [11].
Comparison of microorganisms from extreme environments may lead to the identification and characterization of unique biological pathways. These pathways may allow adaptive resistance to solar UV radiation and other oligotrophic conditions of interstellar travel, providing clues as to how life may have appears on distance planets and even on earth itself. The ability to simulate this phenomenon in a laboratory setting would be a breakthrough in astrobiology that contributed to the overall knowledge base of the scientific community, providing further indication that the interstellar transport of microorganisms via anorganic vectors is indeed possible, and likely even facilitated by the complex process of selection in microorganism communities, particularly in the presence of a water source.
References
1. Abe, F. and Horikoshi, K. 1995. ‘Hydrostatic Pressure Promotes the Acidification of Vacuoles in Saccharomyces cerevisiae’, Fems Microbiology Letters vol. 130, pp. 307-312.
2. Baker, P.W. and Leff, L.G. 2005. ‘Intraspecific Differences in Bacterial Responses to Modelled Reduced Gravity’, Journal of Applied Microbiology, vol. 98, no. 5, pp. 1239-1246.
3. Baumstark-Khan, Christa and Hornecka, Gerda 2007, ‘Results from the “Technical Workshop on Genotoxicity Biosensing”: The micro-scale fluorometric assay of deoxyribonucleic acid unwinding’, Analytica Chimica Acta, vol. 593, no. 1, pp. 75-81.
4. ‘General Information about the Graduate School in Astrobiology’ 2010, Astrobiology Graduate School Stockholm University, Retrieved from http://astrobiology.physto.se/
5. Horneck G, Klaus DM, and Mancinelli RL 2010, ‘Space microbiology’, Microbiol Mol Biol Rev, vol. 74, no. 1, pp. 121-56.
6. Horneck G. 1981, ‘Survival of Microorganisms in Space: a Review’, Adv Space Res, vol.1, no.14, pp.39-48.
7. Markley, J. L., Northrop, D. B., and Royer, C. A. 1996, High-Pressure Effects in Molecular Biophysics and Enzymology, Oxford University Press, New York.
8. Miyake, Norimune, Wallis, Max K., and Al-Mufti, Shirwan 2010, ‘Identification of Micro-Biofossils in Space Dust’, Journal of Cosmology, vol. 7, pp. 1743-1749.
9. Rettberg P, Eschweiler U, Strauch K, Reitz G, Horneck G, Wanke H, Brack A, and Barbier B 2002, ‘Survival of Microorganisms in Space Protected by Meteorite Material: Results of the experiment EXOBIOLOGIE of the PERSEUS mission’, Adv Space Res, vol. 30, no. 6, pp. 1539-45.
10. Roberts, Dave 1998, ‘Eukaryotes in Extreme Environments’, Zoology Department, Natural History Museum of London, Retrieved from http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/research/projects/euk-extreme/
11. Tyler, Robert 2010, ‘Water Worlds and Oceans May be Common in the Universe’, Journal of Cosmology, vol. 5, pp. 959-970.
12. Holtz, William J. and Keasling, Jay D.. 2010. ‘Engineering Static and Dynamic Control of Synthetic Pathways’, Cell, vol. 140, no. 1, pp. 19-23.
13. [Cite your thesis]