Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Off-world life sciences: Three biological experiments delivered by NG-20 Cargo Droid to the International Space Station

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Maria Gill
Maria Gill
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Clusters of grape-like bacteria have arrived at the International Space Station on a resupply mission @northropgrumman – NASA

NASA's Biological and Physical Sciences Division is sending three physical science and space biology experiments and equipment to the International Space Station aboard Northrop Grumman's 20th Commercial Resupply Services mission. These experiments aim to pioneer scientific discovery, enable sustainable exploration of deep space, and support transformative engineering.

Using microbes to improve plant growth in space

Plants will play a crucial role in space exploration because they provide a fresh food source for astronauts, freshen the air of habitats, and help recycle resources. However, to effectively use plants for space exploration, it is important to understand how they grow under harsh space environments. Many microbes closely associated with plants are known to improve a plant's ability to withstand environmental stresses on Earth. These beneficial microbes could also confer similar benefits to plants in space; However, we do not know how exposure to the space environment changes these associations.

Plant-Microbe Interactions in Space (Advanced Plant Experiments in Space; APEX-10) tests whether the beneficial microbe Trichoderma harzianum increases stress resistance and improves the growth of seedlings of tomato plants (Lycopersicum esculentum) when the two are grown together in microgravity on the International Space Station. If so, this knowledge could help increase the productivity of plants on Earth as well as in space. The principal investigator for APEX-10 is Dr. Simon Gilroy of the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Understanding bone loss associated with microgravity

Despite rigorous exercise, astronauts face a major health problem in space travel: significant bone loss. The Role of Mesenchymal Stem Cells in Microgravity-Induced Bone Loss – Part A (MABL-A) The research evaluates the effects of microgravity on bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), specifically their ability to secrete bone-forming and osteolytic (MSC) cytokines. secreted proteins that affect other cells).

MSCs are known to play a role in making and repairing skeletal tissues. The findings could provide a better understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms of spaceflight-induced bone loss and normal aging on Earth. The principal investigator for MABL-A is Dr. Aba Zubair of Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida.

Study of bacterial growth in space

Microbes, such as bacteria, cause many human diseases on Earth. It is possible that these same microbes could negatively affect the health of astronauts during future space missions. Therefore, a deeper understanding of how the spaceflight environment affects microbial growth could help develop strategies to counter their harmful effects.

Biological Research in Cans-25 (BRIC-25) studies how microgravity affects the quorum sensing system of the accessory gene regulator (Agr) of Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterial pathogen that infects nearly all human tissues and organs. The agr quorum sensing system is a key communication tool used by bacteria to form biofilms, regulate organ function, and influence their ability to cause disease.

By investigating the Agr system on the International Space Station, researchers at BRIC-25 hope to uncover new insights into the behavior of bacteria in space. This knowledge could not only protect astronauts' health, but also improve our understanding of bacterial adaptations on Earth. The principal investigator for BRIC-25 is Dr. Kelly Rice, from the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida.

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About BBC

NASA's Biological and Physical Sciences Division is a leader in scientific discovery and enables exploration using space environments for investigations not possible on Earth. Studying biological and physical phenomena under extreme conditions allows researchers to develop the fundamental scientific knowledge required to go farther and stay longer in space, while also benefiting life on Earth.


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