Study of biological material and information in the environment, preservation and interaction with the physical environment, identification of molecular biomarkers and development of methodologies for their detection.
The search for molecular biomarkers in planetary exploration requires a thorough understanding of the metabolic potential, production and preservation of biomolecules in terrestrial analogs from other planetary environments.
Study of the preservation of biological and environmental information in terrestrial analogs of other planetary environments.
Identification of molecular biomarkers and development of methodologies for their detection.
Development of new analytical methods, as well as instrumentation concepts and prototypes for planetary exploration.
The strategy is based on:
Geomicrobiological study of extreme environments considered as terrestrial analogues of other planetary environments. Surface (water, rock, soil, sediment) and depth sampling techniques are used by shallow (1-5 m) or deep (600 m) drilling, mineralogical study (XRD, Raman), geochemical (ICP-MS, Ion Chromatography), organic chemistry (GC/MS), biochemistry (total proteins and sugars as well as amino acids and monosaccharides), microbiology (enrichment cultures, metagenomic and metatranscriptomic studies, oligonucleotide microarrays, microscopic techniques such as FISH and SEM), etc.
Development of immunosensors in antibody microarray format including: Production of antibodies against natural extracts, microbial strains, proteins, nucleic acids, exopolysaccharides, and other organic molecules; development of fluorescent and chemiluminescent immunoassays; validation in field campaigns in analogous environments such as Rio Tinto, Atacama Desert, hydrothermal environments (Andes, Antarctica), polar environments (Antarctica, Arctic). We have a unique collection of more than 400 antibodies and a Life Detector Chip (LDChip) tested in the field.
Implementation of instruments for in situ biomarker detection. We have developed the SOLID (Signs Of LIfe Detector) instrument capable of processing a sample of up to 1 g of soil or ground rock and analyzing it using the LDChip immunosensor in an automated way. SOLID currently has a development level of TRL6 (NASA standard), has been submitted to several calls for instruments for Mars exploration. It is an important part of the payload for the proposed NASA Ames Research Center IceBreaker mission to search for biomarkers of current or recent life in Martian permafrost.
As a side application of the developments: implementation of immunological methods for biomedical, veterinary or environmental purposes. We have developed chips for serological assays and detection of viral antigens in animals (e.g. swine fever, bluetongue virus) and humans (SARS-CoV2).