Biochip for Organic Matter Analysis in Space

Figure. EXPOSE-R2 track with many astrobiology and photochemistry experiments put outside the International Space Station during an Extra Vehicular Activity the 18th of august 2014. Red frame: plate with 9 among the 18 “biochip cells” of our project. Credit: ESA.

The aim of this project is to study the resistance to space constraints of biochips that use different types of ligands as molecular recognition tool. The ligands under study in our project are: antibodies and aptamers (for many years) and nanobodies (new project). Biochip-based instruments present a great potential for the search for biomarkers (molecules that are the sign of past or present life) in another planet, thanks to their size (miniaturized devices), sensitivity and their ability to detect hundreds of different molecules in a single analysis.

We have performed many experiments on antibodies and aptamers and developed some specific biochip models to test them against different factors: temperature cycling, freeze-drying, irradiations with protons, neutrons, electrons and other particles at different energies and fluxes, etc. We have also participated to an experiment outside the International Space Station to overcome the limits of ground tests and to test the resistance of biochips to cumulated space constraints during 18 months (see figure).

We currently study the feasibility of developing aptamer and nanobody biochips that could recognize molecules as small as amino acids and targets that could be extracted by different types of solvent (water, methanol, etc).

All the experiments we performed until now show that antibody and aptamer biochips are suited for planetary exploration.

All these studies are performed in collaboration with many scientists from different laboratories (LAB, IBMM, LGEI, CENBG, INSERM, CNES, DLR, LISA, etc) in various fields of research (including astronomers, chemists, biochemists, physicists). We also participate to the SOLID project (Sign of Life Detector, lead by V. Parro, Spain) that has been proposed for NASA planetary space missions.

Contact: M. Dobrijevic and A. Le Postollec.