Scientific experiment to last half a millennium

Credit: PLOS One / German Aerospace Center

A few years ago microbiology researchers started their scientific experiment.  However the amount of time they have spent on the research project only represents 1% of the duration of the experiment.  In fact researchers will be working on this study for another five centuries.   

Longest scientific experiment planned

The 500-year Microbiology Experiment which was launched in 2014 is currently being led by an international team at the German Aerospace Center (Germany).  This microbiology experiment is expected to finish in 2514, which makes it the longest planned experiment in the world.  At the end of this experiment, researchers will eventually open a series of wooden boxes containing no less than 800 glass bottles.

Inside these bottles are bacteria which will either be Bacillus subtilis or Chroococcidiopsis.  These bacteria have been locked into the bottles without food or oxygen and water.  These specific bacteria are known for being able to survive extreme environmental conditions and stay in a sort of hibernation state.  Researchers are trying to find the answer to a fundamental question: what is the  exact rate of loss of viability when they are hibernating?  In other words, researchers are trying to determine the length of time microbes can be conserved in such conditions.

Researchers declared that, “While there are no significant differences in survivability, minor differences may lead to big differences as the 500-year storage study progresses… as storage time increases, spore resistance to these conditions may be dramatically affected.”

Credits : PLOS One / German Aerospace Center

The bottles will be gradually opened

Researchers are meant to test certain types of bacteria well before the end of the experiment.  Therefore some of the samples will be tested every two years during the first quarter of a century (until 2039) and then once every quarter of a century until the end of the experiment.

The first results after the opening of a bottle after being store for two years have just recently been published in the journal PLOS One on the 4 December 2018.  According to the researchers, there has been no significant loss of spore viability.  However, it is still too early to evaluate the trajectory that the state of the bacteria will take overtime.  Perhaps the next opening will tell us a little more about this subject.

Sources : ScienceAlertAgence Science Presse

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