What are we investigating?

What is so special about foraminifera?

Foraminifera are unicellular organism with an external calcium carbonate shell. This shell is a
delicate structure comprised of layers of proteins and crystalline calcium carbonate.

It makes up an interesting compound material for biomedical and chemical applications.

Foraminiferal shells are already used as drug delivery systems, which allow for a better control of drug release than conventional applications, when the drug is included in the shell. [1].

Furthermore, severe bone injuries are filled with a shell-derived matrix. This allows for an improved adherence of bone cells to the matrix surface as compared to the natural surface of broken bone. [2]

In resarch for nano-scale chemical reactions, calcium carbonate or silicate surface can be coupled with different substrates, which allows for improved or even new manufacturing
and processing methods. [3]

What do we want to investigate?

Our aim is to investigate, if microgravity affect the foraminiferal behaviour and motility.
Do they move? Do they grow faster? Or slower? Or not at all? Does the stress at launch and flight affect the foraminifera? Do they survive?

To investigate that, we will compare the reactions of the foraminifera with an identical ground-based control group.

Is it worth it?

We are convinced that the answer is yes!

Experiments in microgravity with inorganic crystals have already shown different crystallization patterns than under standard gravity. [4]

And: previous experiments already confirmed the influence of environmental parameters on growth patterns in foraminifera. [5]

The forams could shape new structures, which may provide interesting new materials for the above-mentioned research areas, which then can be developed further.

Therefore, we want to send the foraminifera into space!


  • Chou et al., 2012: Simvastatin-Loaded β -TCP Drug Delivery System Induces Bone Formation and Prevents Rhabdomyolysis in OVX Mice
  • Chou et al., 2013: Bone Regeneration of Rat Tibial Defect by Zinc-Tricalcium Phosphate (Zn-TCP) Synthesized from Porous Foraminifera Carbonate Macrospheres
  • Clarke, S. A., Walsh, P., Maggs, C. A., & Buchanan, F. (2011). Designs from the deep: marine organisms for bone tissue engineering. Biotechnology advances , 29 (6), 610-617.
  • Davis, S. A., Breulmann, M., Rhodes, K. H., Zhang, B., & Mann, S. (2001). Template-directed assembly using nanoparticle building blocks: a nanotectonic approach to organized materials. Chemistry of Materials , 13 (10), 3218-3226.
  • Elhadj, S., Salter, E. A., Wierzbicki, A., De Yoreo, J. J., Han, N., & Dove, P. M. (2006). Peptide controls on calcite mineralization: Polyaspartate chain length affects growth kinetics and acts as a stereochemical switch on morphology. Crystal growth & design , 6 (1), 197-201.
  • Green, D. W., Ben-Nissan, B., Yoon, K. S., Milthorpe, B., & Jung, H. S. (2017). Natural and Synthetic Coral Biomineralization for Human Bone Revitalization. Trends in biotechnology , 35 (1), 43-54.
  • Hilbig, R., Anken, R. H., Sonntag, G., Höhne, S., Henneberg, J., Kretschmer, N., & Rahmann, H. (2002). Effects of altered gravity on the swimming behaviour of fish. Advances in Space Research , 30 (4), 835-841
  • Hohenegger, J., Briguglio, A., & Eder, W. (2014). The natural laboratory of algal symbiont-bearing benthic foraminifera: studying individual growth and population dynamics in the sublittoral. In Approaches to Study Living Foraminifera (pp. 13-28). Springer Japan.
  • Ijiri, K., Mizuno, R., Narita, T., Ohmura, T., Ishikawa, Y., Yamashita, M., … & MacCallum, T. (1998). Behavior and reproduction of invertebrate animals during and after a long-term microgravity: space experiments using an autonomous biological system (ABS). Biological Sciences in Space, 12 (4), 377-388.
  • Shi, J., Jiang, Y., Wang, X., Wu, H., Yang, D., Pan, F., … & Jiang, Z. (2014). Design and synthesis of organic–inorganic hybrid capsules for biotechnological applications. Chemical Society Reviews , 43 (15), 5192-5210