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Dec. 30, 2020

Learning what it takes to grow a space garden

As the public buzz continues to build around sending a manned mission to Mars, even colonizing it someday, scientists are studying what it takes to survive such a long trip. One problem is food. If humans spend long stretches of time out in space, they can’t pack all their food before the trip. They’ll have to grow some in space, not an easy feat.

To grow food beyond planet Earth is tricky. Crop plants face unusual conditions for them, like microgravity, radiation, freezing temperatures and a lack of natural light

With the support of NASA, the lab of MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory scientist Federica Brandizzi has been studying how plants survive in space conditions. In a new study, they start revealing how a plant system — which helps plants manage various types of Earthly stresses, such as extreme heat — might function in space. The study is published in the journal Astrobiology.

The survival mechanism is called the unfolded protein response. When plants are stressed, they produce defective proteins that are harmful and sometimes deadly to these plants. The UPR kicks in to tell the plant to dump the faulty proteins and to go back to making good ones.

Read the full story on the College of Natural Science website.

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