How does gravity affect bacteria?

22.01.2014 -  

Scientists at Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg have found that cells of the immune system react to the loss of gravity within a few seconds: the release of oxygen radicals, a very important reaction in the fight against bacteria, only works under gravity. Using scavenger cells, so-called macrophages, they researched reactions during parabolic flights, on centrifuges and in a clinostat, a device for simulating weightlessness. Cells were exposed to weightlessness for different lengths of time or an increased force of gravity was generated. The researchers published their results under the direction of space biotechnologist and physician Prof. Dr. Dr. Oliver Ullrich now in the renowned international scientific journal "Cell Communication and Signaling".

“With our experiments, we were able to demonstrate directly for the first time that a fundamental cell biological reaction requires gravity. Interestingly, this is a cell process that has already developed in the early phase of life on earth ", says Oliver Ullrich. “We were able to demonstrate the effect of gravity directly in many different test arrangements. There may be many causes of health problems in space at the cellular level. However, the human body is also very capable of regeneration and can fight problems at the cellular level through a reaction from the whole organism. "

How the cells perceive the force of gravity, there are so far only theories. “We suspect that the cell skeleton is involved. But we also have good indications of a sensitivity to gravity in the cell nucleus ", explains Oliver Ullrich. Further research should get to the bottom of the cause.

For the first time, the publication bears the name of the “Magdeburg Working Group for Research under Space and Weightless Conditions (MARS)”, which was founded in July last year at the University of Magdeburg.

The experiments are expected to continue in the coming year on the International Space Station ISS. Then the researchers want to find out whether the cells change permanently or whether they can adapt to the new conditions. “In order to know how life works on earth, we have to go into space with our experiments,” says Oliver Ullrich. "This is the only way we can research what makes life on earth so unique."


Astrid Adrian, Kathrin Schoppmann, Juri Sromicki, Sonja Brungs, Melanie von der Wiesche, Bertold Hock, Waldemar Kolanus, Ruth Hemmersbach, Oliver Ullrich The oxidative burst reaction in mammalian cells depends on gravity. Cell Communication and Signaling 2013, 11:98 (20 December 2013)


Contact Person:
Prof. Hon.-Prof. Dr. med. Dr. rer. nat. Oliver Ullrich, Institute for Machine Design, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg, Leipziger Str. 44, 39120 Magdeburg, Tel .: 0391 67-18522 or 0041 44 63-55310, E-Mail: or