Results of new experiments, planned and conducted aboard the ISS with participation of Kazan Federal University scientists, have been got.
Plants are quite able to adapt to space flight conditions both on physiological and genetic levels. At the same time, plant development in space is associated with significant load on the antioxidant system. These data are given in a joint article by Russian, Japanese and American scientists, published in BMC Plant Biology journal and mentioned in BMC journal group blog as one of January papers most attractive for readers.
The idea to create a greenhouse complex on a space vehicle with a view to generate oxygen and grow vegetables and fruits for long-term space missions is old; it has been actively used both in scientific researches and multiple science fiction books and films (given below is a shot from the film Sunshine, 2007).
At the same time, a unique space greenhouse “LADA”, jointly created by specialists from NASA and GNC (State Research Centre) Institute of Medicine and Biology of the Russian Academy of Science (RAS), has been installed and successfully used for experiments since 2001 aboard the ISS (International Space Station). It should be noted that the purpose of the experiments conducted is not only to study fundamental plant reactions to space flight environment. “LADA” permits to cultivate several generations of plants.
Over the last years there appeared a technical opportunity to estimate complex reaction of the plant genome to external stresses thanks to development of high-performance segmentation methods. Shortly after Mizuna genome mapping an experiment with this plant growing and freezing in space and its delivery in such a state to research laboratories was planned and conducted aboard the ISS.
The experimental program turned out to be really international: a plan of experiments was developed by specialists from the Institute of Medicine and Biology of the RAS (supervisor – Mr. V. Sychyov). Work in space was performed by Russian cosmonauts, material delivery to the Earth and primary processing were done by American specialists, genome-wide sequencing was done by Japanese scientists from the National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, further on results were analysed by specialists from Okayama University and Kazan Federal University.
The program details can be found here.
It has been demonstrated that plants develop in a quite normal way and don’t have any morphological or physiological deviations from an earth control group. At the same time, genome functioning analysis has shown that an active work of the antioxidant system and other plant stress systems is behind a successful external adaptation to the space flight, which wasn’t observed in the earth control group. Plants thus are quite able to play the role of living biosensors during long-term space expeditions, and their analysis can help to provide a high-fidelity detection of possible risks for cosmonauts connected with long-term staying aboard a spaceship.
By the way, one of research supervisors of the experiment – Professor of Okayama University, Mr. Manabu Sugimoto, was invited to KFU to work in the framework of Top-100 program. Russian and American specialists are planning to install and launch a new-generation LADA greenhouse aboard the ISS in the nearest future. In the coming years all the aforesaid, together with active KFU instrumentation pool development, will permit to considerably expand the concept of a set of plant adaptive reactions in space and improve methodology of plant life support and cultivation systems during long-term flights.
By the Way
Peas, Mizuna, the Japanese dwarf cabbage, and super-dwarf wheat are the best to grow under zero-G conditions, they practically do not undergo genetic variations and mutations, which has been proven by several generations of these crops grown on the orbit. That was the statement made by the chief researcher of the Institute of Medicine and Biology under the Russian Academy of Science, Ms. Margarita Levinskikh.
“Experiments with peas give us a high hope. Within the period of researches done at the International Space Station (ISS) we got four vegetations of this plant. No regression by biomass and reproductive performance was registered,” said Ms. Levinskikh. “As for super-dwarf wheat reproduction, seeds got at the ISS are really of exceptionally high quality: even when we were selecting seeds for the flight on the Earth we rarely could find one of such quality,” added the expert.