Christine Moissl-Eichinger

Christine Moissl-Eichinger, Professor at Graz Medical University#

The microbiome ecosystem#

Abstract:#

Approximately ninety percent of all cells in the human body are microorganisms. They reside on our skin, in mouth, nose, ears, intestinal tract and genitals. The microbial material living in our gut weighs about 1-2 kg, and there are more bacteria on our skin than human beings on the Earth. Regarding these numbers, it is not surprising that the human microbiome (the entity of all microorganisms living with us) has an enormous power: Most species (out of approximately ten thousands of them) are essential for our survival, health and well-being.

Health problems such as inflammatory bowel diseases, obesity, diabetes and even autism and depression have been linked to altered composition and diversity in human-associated microbial community. The human microbiome interacts closely with the environmental microbiome- from our indoor homes, animals or plants, which are an important source of healthy microorganisms - as food and environmental component.

We spend the majority of our lifetime in indoor environments and the impact of a healthy environment on the human microbiome has been shown in previous studies. Normal indoor environments are strongly influenced by ventilation (outdoor air), the natural outside- environment and the (human) activity- and thus ensure the interaction with beneficial microorganisms. Restricted areas, such as clean rooms, intensive care units or the international space station are special indoor environments, which provide are very limited or no exchange with the surroundings. In our research, we want to understand the interaction and influence of maintenance of such special living environments with low microbial diversity on the health and well-being of inhabitants. In particular, analogue space missions and studies of the international space station are experimental environments which provide critical insight in the (resistant) microbiome that might have to be controlled during long-term spaceflight or human isolation. Requirements for spaceflight are a general driver for technical innovations and could thus push the improvement of microbial detection and the analysis of their activity. Both, the spaceflight models and novel technical innovations can have direct impact on the maintenance of medical environments on Earth and novel applications in microbiome research, control and diagnostics.

Profile:#

Christine Moissl-Eichinger is Professor for “Interactive Microbiome Research” at the MedicalUniversity Graz, Austria (http://www.medunigraz.at/microbiome). She is PI of numerous microbiome-, microbial ecology- and astrobiology-related projects from national up to European level, including the upcomingInternational Space Station-ARBEX project. She is member of the European BIOSIS consortium (“Biosafety in space”), the ESA ECSS group “Microbiological examination offlight hardware and cleanrooms” and MC member of the COST activity “Origins” (Origins and evolution of life on Earth and in the Universe; TD1308). She is reviewer for the Planetary Protection panel of NASA. Within the last years, she has received several prices and grants, including the NASA Certificateof Recognition for the creative development of technical innovation (2008) and the ESF TOP10 New Species Award (2014). She has published more than 45 articles in high-impact Journals, such as Nature Communications and Nature ISME Journal. She has collaborations all over theworld, including Caltech/ NASA JPL (Pasadena, USA), Moscow State University, University of Edinburgh and DLR Cologne (Germany).

Career
  • Since Sep 2014 Professor for „Interactive Microbiome research“ at the Medical University of Graz (BioTechMed Professorship)
  • 2007 – 2014 Project- and group leader at the Department for Microbiology and Archaea Center at the University of Regensburg, Germany
  • 2005 – 2006 PostDoc at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, USA
  • 2004 – 2005 PostDoc at the University hospital Regensburg (Internal Medicine/Rheumatology), Germany

Academic background
  • 2014 Habilitation (Dr. habil) and Venia Legendi in Microbiology (Privatdozentin)
  • 2000 – 2004 Dissertation (Dr. rer. nat.)
  • 1995 – 2000 Study of Biology at the University of Regensburg, Germany

Areas of expertise and contribution to BioTechMed-Graz

Every human being carries more than 10-100 times more microorganisms than own body cells and we interact closely with about 10.000 different microbes. The interaction with this so-called microbiome is highly relevant for us: Some of these microbes are essential, others can have negative effects on our body, but due to the complexity of the microbiome, we are just at the beginning to understand the function and importance of these microbes. In my group, we are highly interested in the human gut- and skin microbiome, but also in the interaction of the human microbiome with plants and our direct, biotic and abiotic environment – also to culture and characterize novel, beneficial microorganisms. Besides Bacteria, we will also look into the fungal and archaeal diversity: Archaea are special microorganisms with unusual characteristics, often overlooked in diagnostic analyses. They, however, play a crucial role in the natural environment (e.g. spring water, soil), but also in the human body, which we would like to elucidate further. Besides unusual microbes we will also look into unusual working areas, such as the International Space Station, which will be sampled for us by an astronaut during an ESA space project. In all these projects, colleagues from the three universities will be involved, in order to emphasize the cooperative aspect and to position our research optimally in the Graz network and beyond.

Modern research is driven and shaped by cooperation, exchange, discussion and networking, the application and combination of state-of-the-art analysis methods and techniques, as well as by unusual and brilliant ideas. BioTechMed creates a novel, extraordinary basis for all this and allows us, the BioTechMed professors and associated teams, to perform highly efficient research for human health.

Her statement: “I am full of enthusiasm and energy, I am looking forward to my Interactive role in the frame of the unique BioTechMed cooperation project, to novel insights into the Microbiome of the human body and the environment, and to join Research for the human health in an excellent environment!”

Some interesting facts about the human microbiome:
  • The human body carries thousands of different microorganisms (the microbiome) which are important for human health and well-being
  • Healthy (beneficial) microorganisms are acquired through the interaction with our environment, food and social contacts
  • The human microbiome consists not only of Bacteria, but also Archaea and Fungi are important key players.
  • Enclosed systems, such as during long-term space travel limit the exchange with beneficial microorganisms. The analysis of microbiomes of enclosed systems, such as spacecraft, international space station etc. can have impact on the maintenance of medical environments

We spend the majority of our lifetime in indoor environments and the impact of a healthy environment on the human microbiome has been shown in previous studies. Normal indoor environments are strongly influenced by ventilation (outdoor air), the natural outside- environment and the (human) activity- and thus ensure the interaction with beneficial microorganisms. Restricted areas, such as clean rooms, intensive care units or the international space station are special indoor environments, which provide are very limited or no exchange with the surroundings. In our research, we want to understand the interaction and influence of maintenance of such special living environments with low microbial diversity on the health and well-being of inhabitants.

In particular, analogue space missions and studies of the international space station are experimental environments which provide critical insight in the (resistant) microbiome that might have to be controlled during long-term spaceflight or human isolation. Requirements for spaceflight are a general driver for technical innovations and could thus push the improvement of microbial detection and the analysis of their activity. Both, the spaceflight models and novel technical innovations can have direct impact on the maintenance of medical environments on Earth and novel applications in microbiome research, control and diagnostics.

References (last 5 years) with relevance to space travel and human microbiome:

Moissl-Eichinger, C; Auerbach, AK; Probst, AJ; Mahnert, A; Tom, L; Piceno, Y; Andersen, GL; Venkateswaran, K; Rettberg, P; Barczyk, S; Pukall, R; Berg, G Quo vadis? Microbial profiling revealed strong effects of cleanroom maintenance and routes of contamination in indoor environments. Sci Rep. 2015; 5: 9156-9156.

Bauermeister, A; Mahnert, A; Auerbach, A; Böker, A; Flier, N; Weber, C; Probst, AJ; Moissl-Eichinger, C; Haberer, K Quantification of encapsulated bioburden in spacecraft polymer materials by cultivation-dependent and molecular methods. PLoS One. 2014; 9(4):e94265-e94265

Probst, AJ; Auerbach, AK; Moissl-Eichinger, C Archaea on human skin. PLoS One. 2013; 8(6):e65388-e65388 Schwendner, P; Moissl-Eichinger, C; Barczyk, S; Bohmeier, M; Pukall, R; Rettberg, P Insights into the microbial diversity and bioburden in a South American spacecraft assembly clean room. Astrobiology. 2013; 13(12):1140-1154

Vaishampayan, P; Moissl-Eichinger, C; Pukall, R; Schumann, P; Spröer, C; Augustus, A; Roberts, AH; Namba, G; Cisneros, J; Salmassi, T; Venkateswaran, K Description of Tersicoccus phoenicis gen. nov., sp. nov. isolated from spacecraft assembly clean room environments. Int J Syst Evol Microbiol. 2013; 63(Pt 7):2463-2471

Moissl-Eichinger, C; Pukall, R; Probst, AJ; Stieglmeier, M; Schwendner, P; Mora, M; Barczyk, S; Bohmeier, M; Rettberg, P Lessons learned from the microbial analysis of the Herschel spacecraft during assembly, integration, and test operations. Astrobiology. 2013; 13(12):1125-1139

Moissl-Eichinger, C; Rettberg, P; Pukall, R The first collection of spacecraft-associated microorganisms: a public source for extremotolerant microorganisms from spacecraft assembly clean rooms. Astrobiology. 2012; 12(11):1024-1034

Probst, A; Mahnert, A; Weber, C; Haberer, K; Moissl-Eichinger, C Detecting inactivated endospores in fluorescence microscopy using propidium monoazide. INT J ASTROBIOL. 2012; 11(2): 117-123.

Stieglmeier, M; Rettberg, P; Barczyk, S; Bohmeier, M; Pukall, R; Wirth, R; Moissl-Eichinger, C Abundance and diversity of microbial inhabitants in European spacecraft-associated clean rooms. Astrobiology. 2012; 12(6):572-585

Kwan, K; Cooper, M; La Duc, MT; Vaishampayan, P; Stam, C; Benardini, JN; Scalzi, G; Moissl-Eichinger, C; Venkateswaran, K Evaluation of procedures for the collection, processing, and analysis of biomolecules from low-biomass surfaces. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2011; 77(9):2943-2953

Moissl-Eichinger, C Archaea in artificial environments: their presence in global spacecraft clean rooms and impact on planetary protection. ISME J. 2011; 5(2):209-219

Probst, A; Facius, R; Wirth, R; Wolf, M; Moissl-Eichinger, C Recovery of bacillus spore contaminants from rough surfaces: a challenge to space mission cleanliness control. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2011; 77(5):1628-1637

Probst, A; Facius, R; Wirth, R; Moissl-Eichinger, C Validation of a nylon-flocked-swab protocol for efficient recovery of bacterial spores from smooth and rough surfaces. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2010; 76(15):5148-5158

Probst, A; Vaishampayan, P; Osman, S; Moissl-Eichinger, C; Andersen, GL; Venkateswaran, K Diversity of anaerobic microbes in spacecraft assembly clean rooms. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2010; 76(9):2837-2845
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