North Carolina State University researchers are reportedly looking deep under water for clues on how to redesign plants for life deep in outer space.
Some of the stresses inherent with travel and life in space -- extreme temperatures, drought, radiation and gravity -- are not easily remedied with traditional plant defenses, scientists said.
So Botany Professor Wendy Boss and Amy Grunden, an assistant professor of microbiology, want to transfer beneficial characteristics from a sea-dwelling, single-celled organism called Pyrococcus furiosus into model plants, such as tobacco and Arabidopsis, or mustard weed.
The scientists say P. furiosus is a microbe that can survive in extreme temperatures. It grows and dwells in underwater sea volcanoes where temperatures reach that of boiling water. It also can survive in near freezing deep-sea water.
The NASA-funded research entails extracting a gene from P. furiosus and expressing it in plants.
"This is very fundamental research," Boss said. "If we could add new genes to plants, we could potentially make the plants more resistant to extreme conditions such as drought and extreme temperatures that we have on Earth, but also to the extreme conditions that one might find on Mars."
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