News and commentary about the Great Frontiers

ISS007-E-10807 (21 July 2003) --- This view of Earth's horizon as the sunsets over the Pacific Ocean was taken by an Expedition 7 crewmember onboard the International Space Station (ISS). Anvil tops of thunderclouds are also visible. Credit: Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

Image Credit: ISS007-E-10807 (21 July 2003) – Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

Nanobacteria Implicated in Kidney Stones


One of the original discoverers of nanobacteria (NB) and NASA researchers have presented evidence supporting the role of the mysterious agent in kidney stone formation. If further studies confirm the results, a better treatment for this painful condition may include antibiotics.

Finnish researchers first forwarded the idea of NB as a novel life form and disease vector in 1998 and the Mayo Clinic confirmed the existence of the particles in May 2004. NB have since been implicated in many medical conditions where calcification is involved, such as hardening of the arteries and Alzheimer’s Disease. The question as to whether or not the particles are living organisms is yet to be resolved. NB are smaller than bacteria and nearly as small as viruses. If inanimate, the particles could instead be the result of a poorly understood crystallization method.

The latest study by Dr. Neva Çiftçioglu et al found NB replicating at nearly five times their normal rate under microgravity conditions. The image of NB to the left, courtesy Dr. Çiftçioglu, was taken using a transmission electron microscope (TEM). The white bar at the bottom of the image is only 100 nanometers in length. The possibility of microbial infection in close quarters has been identified as a serious risk to astronauts. Astronauts may be at an even higher risk of various diseases during longer duration space flights, such as a mission to Mars. A follow-up study may include measuring NB antigen and antibody levels in astronauts before and after an upcoming mission into space.

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