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NASA's latest experiments aboard ISS aim to boost life in space
Dr. Simon Gilroy (left) and members of the APEX-10 team (Dr. Sarah Swanson, center and Dr. Arko Bashki) preparing their space experiments at the Kennedy Space Center. Dr. Gilroy is a Researcher and Professor in the Botany Department of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He works extensively with NASA on understanding how plants grow on the International Space Station and plans for using plants in life support on planetary bases. University of Wisconsin
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NASA's latest experiments aboard ISS aim to boost life in space
by Clarence Oxford
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Feb 01, 2024

NASA's Biological and Physical Sciences Division is embarking on a new journey to enhance life beyond Earth with the launch of three pivotal experiments to the International Space Station (ISS). These experiments, part of Northrop Grumman's 20th commercial resupply services mission, are set to pioneer scientific discovery in the realms of physical sciences and space biology, paving the way for sustainable deep space exploration and transformative engineering. The launch is earmarked for no earlier than Tuesday, January 30, from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

A key experiment in this venture is the Plant-Microbe Interactions in Space (APEX-10), led by Dr. Simon Gilroy from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. This study focuses on the role of the beneficial microbe Trichoderma harzianum in enhancing the stress resilience and growth of tomato plants (Lycopersicum esculentum) in microgravity.

Understanding how microbes interact with plants in space is crucial, as plants are essential for providing fresh food, revitalizing habitat air, and recycling resources during space missions. The success of APEX-10 could not only revolutionize plant productivity in space but also offer new insights for agricultural practices on Earth.

Another significant experiment, the Role of Mesenchymal Stem Cells in Microgravity Induced Bone Loss - Part A (MABL-A), addresses a major health concern for astronauts: bone loss. Under the guidance of Dr. Abba Zubair from the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, MABL-A investigates the effects of microgravity on bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs).

These cells play a vital role in forming and repairing skeletal tissues. By studying their behavior in space, the research aims to shed light on the molecular mechanisms of bone loss, a knowledge that could benefit not only space travelers but also people suffering from age-related bone loss on Earth.

The third experiment, Biological Research in Canisters-25 (BRIC-25), led by Dr. Kelly Rice from the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, dives into the realm of microbiology. This study examines how microgravity affects the Accessory Gene Regulator (Agr) quorum-sensing system of Staphylococcus aureus, a common bacterial pathogen.

Since bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus can cause a range of infections on Earth, understanding their behavior in space is crucial for astronaut health. Insights from BRIC-25 could lead to improved strategies for countering harmful microbial effects, benefiting both space missions and medical science on Earth.

NASA's Biological and Physical Sciences Division, through these experiments, continues to pioneer scientific discovery using the unique environment of space. This research not only advances our fundamental scientific knowledge necessary for extended space exploration but also has significant implications for improving life on Earth.

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