Lettuce may defend astronauts from bone density loss in microgravity

Astronauts would possibly sooner or later develop and eat genetically modified vegetation to beat back illness related to lengthy spaceflights. Researchers on the College of California, Davis Faculty of Engineering have developed a transgenic, or genetically modified, lettuce producing a drug to guard towards bone density loss in microgravity. The work will probably be introduced March 22 on the Spring assembly of the American Chemical Society in San Diego.

Our bones are always balanced between progress and resorption, permitting bones to reply to harm or modifications in train. Spending time in microgravity disrupts this stability, tipping bones in direction of resorption, so astronauts lose bone mass. This may be handled with a drug referred to as parathyroid hormone, or PTH, but it surely requires common injections.

Kevin Yates, a graduate pupil working with Professor Karen McDonald and Adjunct Professor Somen Nandi on the UC Davis Division of Chemical Engineering, developed a transgenic lettuce that expresses a fusion protein combining PTH with a part of a human antibody protein. The fusion protein is designed to be secure within the bloodstream and to permit astronauts to doubtlessly purify the drug from plant extracts, Nandi mentioned.

The crew is evaluating the vegetation for the way a lot of the drug they will produce, which leaves comprise essentially the most product and the most effective time to reap the leaves.

Rising vegetation in area

Rising vegetation in area has a number of advantages, Nandi mentioned. A mission to Mars would possibly take a number of years to finish. Expertise from the Worldwide House Station reveals that having the ability to develop some meals along with pre-packaged meals is an enormous morale booster for astronauts, he mentioned.

Lengthy area flights additionally require provides of medicines, reminiscent of PTH. However standard medicines would expire on the way in which, so astronauts want methods to replenish provides. By carrying medicines within the type of transgenic plant seeds, astronauts can each save weight and doubtlessly have a brand new supply of contemporary medication, Nandi mentioned.

Ideally, the drug could be in an orally obtainable kind, in order that astronauts may dose themselves with PTH by consuming lettuce leaves. But when that seems to not work, they need to nonetheless be capable to extract and purify the drug from the vegetation.

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