Public Release: 

Infectious microorganism linked to kidney stones and other diseases

Astronauts at highest risk during space missions

Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

February 14, 2005 - NASA researchers announce a potential cause of rapid kidney stone formation in astronauts on space travels. The authors of a study published in Kidney International call for a "Major Initiative" to investigate nanobacteria.

Nanobacteria (NB), a novel self-replicating, mineralizing agent, has been identified by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientists as a potential culprit in kidney stone formation among astronauts. With the potential for future exploratory space missions to the moon and Mars, longer missions, and exposure to the elements of outer space, health is a major concern for astronauts.

To further comprehend the implications of NB, trials were conducted at NASA to examine NB, in a bioreactor chamber which simulates conditions of space travel. In this microgravity environment, NB was found to multiply five times faster compared to normal gravity on Earth, supporting earlier discoveries that microbes have radically different behavior in weightless environments. NB is also shown to possibly be an infectious risk for crew members living in close quarters.

"The concept that nanobacteria are living organisms is still controversial because the research on their putative nucleic acid has not been completed yet," states lead researcher Neva Ciftcioglu, Ph.D. However, the group's research provides additional clues to understanding NB and its link to pathologic calcification-related diseases.

"Hopefully, eradication or treatment of these diseases will be possible in the near future. We need more research and support to solve this puzzle, but we feel that we are close," adds Ciftcioglu.

NB was discovered in the 1990s and has been found in the calcium phosphate centers of kidney stones. This novel agent has also been detected in related conditions, including Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, prostatitis, and some cancers. Further testing for the presence of NB in human bodies can help reduce the risk for kidney stone formation in astronauts and would also be of benefit to the nearly one million Americans who are treated for kidney stones each year.


This study is published in Kidney International. Media wishing to receive a PDF of the article please contact

About the Author

Neva Ciftcioglu, PhD is Director of Science at Nanobac Life Sciences, Inc.,NASA Johnson Space Center. Dr. Ciftcioglu is the co-discoverer of nanobacteria along with Dr. E. Olavi Kajander. As a medical microbiologist, she has been working solely on nanobacteria and molecular research on pathologic calcification-related diseases since 1991. She is available for questions and interviews at Fellow researcher Dr. David S. McKay can also be reached for further information at

About Kidney International

Kidney International, published on behalf of the International Society of Nephrology, is one of the most cited journals in nephrology. Kidney International delivers current laboratory and clinical research on renal medicine. This peer-reviewed, leading international journal is the most authoritative forum for renal science and medicine. Kidney International continues to be a vital source of information for researchers around the world. For additional information on the journal, please visit

About the International Society of Nephrology

The International Society of Nephrology (ISN), a not-for-profit association founded in 1960, is committed to the worldwide advancement of education, science and patient care in nephrology. This goal is achieved by means of the Society's journals, the organization of international congresses and symposia, and various outreach programs around the world. The ISN acts as an international forum on nephrology for leading nephrologists as well as young investigators, from both developed and emerging countries. Further information is available at

About Blackwell Publishing

Blackwell Publishing is the world's leading society publisher, partnering with more than 600 academic and professional societies. Blackwell publishes over 750 journals and 600 text and reference books annually, across a wide range of academic, medical, and professional subjects.

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