Kombucha is a tea of many talents. The drink is made by fermenting sugar with bacteria and yeast cultures, with the result being a health-packed delicious beverage. Due to its unique properties, scientists are researching alternative uses for kombucha, including a kombucha-based wood or using the cultures as a sustainable water filter.
Research groups from Göttingen University in Germany and the University of Minas Gerais in Brazil have been researching another interesting use of kombucha that’s out of this world. The team set up experiments for the fermented drink to help in investigating extraterrestrial life.
How do kombucha and aliens relate?
By simulating Mars-like conditions, the team will look at the chances of survival of the different species in the kombucha culture. The “Biology and Mars Experiment” (BIOMEX) project has previously attempted a similar experiment, taking kombucha cultures to the International Space Station (ISS). These projects allow for a more thorough understanding of how resilient these little things really are.
Can kombucha survive extra-terrestrial conditions?
Both of the experiments found the surprising power of cellulose and its key role in resilience to extreme conditions. The German/Brazilian team concluded that the only species in the kombucha culture to survive were a cellulose-producing bacteria and the ISS experiment found that after years of Martian-like conditions, bacteria with similar features managed to survive and reproduce.
“Based on our metagenomic analysis, we found that the simulated Martian environment drastically disrupted the microbial ecology of kombucha cultures. However, we were surprised to discover that the cellulose-producing bacteria of the genus Komagataeibacter survived,” explained Professor Bertram Brenig who worked on the project.
Why is this important?
These results suggest that cellulose is a key component for microorganisms surviving in extraterrestrial environments. Knowing this information could be extremely helpful when studying the origins of life and as a biomarker for extraterrestrial bacteria.
This may sound far-fetched, but the team states that understanding these strenuous abilities of bacterial cellulose could inspire films and membranes for protecting life or goods in extraterrestrial conditions. Another interesting application could be for developing novel drug delivery systems for medicine suitable to use in space.
Source study: Frontiers in Microbiology – The Space-Exposed Kombucha Microbial Community Member Komagataeibacter oboediens Showed Only Minor Changes in Its Genome After Reactivation on Earth