29 Sep 2006
Earlier this month, Himawari Dairy began selling space yogurt, which is made using two types of lactic acid bacteria that spent 10 days in space aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket last spring. The yogurt, called Uchu O Tabi Shita Yogurt (literally: "yogurt that travelled in space"), is now available in Shikoku's four prefectures. The space yogurt follows Tosa Space Sake, which hit shelves last spring, as the second space-related product created to stimulate business in Kochi prefecture.
Himawari Dairy worked with the Japan Manned Space Systems Corporation (JAMSS) to organize the space trip for the bacteria. The payload included lactic acid bacteria used in ordinary yogurt, as well as a unique strain of Lactobacillus paracasei cultured from pickles preserved in sake lees (sediment that occurs during sake brewing). In previous joint research conducted with Hokkaido University, Himawari found that Lactobacillus paracasei works to enhance the body's immunity to disease. The space yogurt was made using these two types of bacteria mixed with a third type of bacteria.
According to Himawari Dairy President Bunjiro Yoshizawa, about half of the bacteria died in the agar medium due to the harsh environment inside the rocket. The strong, surviving bacteria gives the space yogurt a more full-bodied flavor compared to yogurt made with standard earthbound bacteria.
The space yogurt is priced at 128 yen (a little more than US$1.00) for 90 grams of the pre-sweetened type and 238 yen (about US$2.00) for 400 grams of the plain type. A space yogurt drink is also available in 90 and 500 gram containers.
[Source: Nikkei Net]
30 Aug 2006
Researchers from Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) have developed a micromotor powered by the movement of bacteria.
The 20-micron (1 micron = 1 millionth of a meter) diameter revolving motor has 6 blades, each with a foot that sits in a 0.5-micron deep, 13-micron diameter groove etched into a silicon substrate. The surfaces of the feet and the groove are treated with proteins that cause the bacteria (introduced via a connecting groove) to move in one direction, pushing the feet (and spinning the motor) as they pass through the groove.
The researchers believe microbial motion can be harnessed as a power source for microdevices in the future, with potential applications that include motors for micromachines and miniature pumps for tiny medical devices.
The research results were published in the August 28 edition of PNAS (online edition).
[Source: Sanyo Shimbun, Jiji]
29 Mar 2006
Final preparations are being made for the launch of a project to develop space yogurt. The plan is a follow-up to the Tosa Space Sake (Tosa Uchu-shu) project, in which a number of Kochi prefecture sake brewers organized a 10-day space journey for a batch of yeast that was later used to produce sake (due to go on sale in Japan on April 1). Himawari Dairy, a Kochi-area dairy manufacturer, has reserved a seat aboard a Soyuz rocket for a payload of lactic acid bacteria that they hope to use to produce the world's first space yogurt after it returns to Earth. "We are deeply interested in seeing how the bacteria will change in space," says Himawari Dairy President Bunjiro Yoshizawa. "We hope it will undergo some interesting changes."
The space yogurt project is the result of cooperation between the key players in the space sake project -- a group of Kochi prefecture business leaders promoting the use of space travel to stimulate the local industry, along with the Japan Manned Space Systems Corporation (JAMSS), which handles the logistical affairs. After tasting some success with the promotion of the space sake project, the groups decided to turn their attention to developing space yogurt.
The ingredients to hitch a ride on the Soyuz include Himawari Dairy's unique lactic acid bacteria cultured from pickles preserved in sake lees (sediment that occurs during sake brewing) and lactic acid bacteria used in commercially available yogurt. Live bacteria cultures and dormant freeze-dried bacteria will be on board. The payload also includes a sample of chlorella (green algae) for research purposes, which was provided by the Kochi University School of Agriculture.
On March 22, the ingredients were loaded into special containers in Kochi City and shipped to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. After spending about 10 days aboard the Soyuz, which is scheduled to launch March 31, the bacteria will be returned to Himawari Dairy, who will study the mutations and safety of the bacteria before beginning work on yogurt production. They hope to have the world’s first space yogurt on shelves sometime this autumn.
Cosmic radiation is expected to have an effect on the bacteria. "Lactic acid bacteria is delicate, so we are looking forward to seeing what happens," says Yoshizawa. "It will be nice if space travel improves the yogurt's flavor and boosts its immunity-enhancing properties."
[Sources: Kochi News, Mainichi Shimbun]