What happens when you take plants out of the normal gravity conditions they’re used to and send them to space? Can growth in a microgravity environment induce changes in plants that could have important medical applications on the ground?
International Space Station (ISS) National Lab implementation partner Space Tango is working with a research team from the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy on studies aimed at examining the effects of space on the medicinal properties of plants.
In response to environmental stress, plants have the ability to produce compounds that help them adapt in order to survive. Because plants have evolved in gravity conditions on Earth, the microgravity conditions on the ISS National Lab act as a stressor and could trigger the production of useful compounds.
The University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy research team is examining different types of plants, including Madagascar Periwinkle, a plant that produces compounds that have anti-cancer properties, and Valerian, a plant that produces compounds with anti-anxiety properties. In germinating seeds onboard the ISS National Lab, the team can investigate whether microgravity induces beneficial changes in the medicinal properties of the plants. The investigations are conducted in SpaceTango’s CubeLabs, small experimental modules that fit into the TangoLab facility onboard the ISS National Lab.
You can learn more about the team’s research in this video. For more information about how researchers are using the unique environment of the ISS National Lab to advance research on plant physiology and behavior, see the related resources below.