NASA’s Space Biology Program recently selected 29 investigations to be awarded grants for ground-based research or research onboard the International Space Station (ISS) aimed at better understanding how spaceflight affects biological systems. The projects employ a variety of specimens, including plants, bacteria, mammalian cell culture systems, and rodents, to examine how living systems acclimate to spaceflight or spaceflight-like conditions. Results from these investigations will both support human space exploration and benefit life on Earth.
The following investigators selected for a NASA grant have conducted previous ISS National Lab-sponsored research.
Anna-Lisa Paul, of the University of Florida, Gainesville, was awarded a grant for her project titled “Epigenetic adaptation to the spaceflight environment – accumulated genomic change induced by generations in space.” Paul previously conducted an ISS National Lab-sponsored investigation examining the role of gravity in root development. Paul compared the distribution of auxin (a plant hormone involved in orienting roots to grow in the direction of the pull of gravity) in the root tips of plants grown in microgravity versus ground controls. Conducting plant studies in space allows researchers to study fundamental plant development processes without the masking effects of gravity, enabling a better understanding of how these processes work on the ground. Read more about Paul’s ISS National Lab research in this Upward feature.
Caitlin O’Connell-Rodwell, of HNu Photonics, LLC, was awarded a grant for her project titled “The effect of microgravity on neuronal cytoskeletal and intracellular trafficking.” HNu Photonics is an ISS National Lab implementation partner, repeat user, and soon-to-be in-orbit commercial facility operator. The BioChip SpaceLab (BCSL), a new life sciences research facility developed and operated by HNu Photonics, is scheduled to launch to the space station in the coming months. To validate the BCSL, the HNu Photonics team will measure how microgravity directly affects human neuroblastoma (a type of cancer that forms in nerve tissue) cell differentiation in vitro and will utilize live-cell imaging techniques in real time on the ISS.
Kasthuri Venkateswaran, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, will serve as the principal investigator adviser to postdoctoral fellow Natasha Sng, of the University of Florida, Gainsville, who was awarded a grant for her project titled “Plant microbiome – its influence in plant growth and protection against pathogenesis in spaceflight.” Venkateswaran previously conducted an ISS National Lab-sponsored investigation aimed at growing strains of fungi isolated from in and around the Chernobyl nuclear accident site onboard the space station. Ground-based studies had identified the fungal strains as producing novel compounds with beneficial agricultural and pharmaceutical applications. Growing the fungal strains in the stressful spaceflight environment could result in the production of additional novel compounds that may be useful back on Earth. Read more about Venkateswaran’s ISS National Lab research in this Upward feature.