Researchers developed a genetically modified or transgenic lettuce that produces a drug providing protection against loss of bone density in microgravity
If astronauts are going to space for long time, such as on Mars mission of three year, maintaining health of these astronauts without supplies from Earth would be a major concern, as spacecraft can carry only limited supplies. Now researchers at University of California developed a genetically modified or transgenic lettuce that produces a drug providing protection against loss of bone density in microgravity.
A mars mission would be very different from space missions in low orbits of earth. As the astronauts would be in microgravity in deep space for long time where maintaining health would require supply of additional supply of food and drugs as well as supplements. Now, researchers at University of California modified lettuce in a way that it acts as a source for parathyroid hormone (PTH), which is known to fight loss of bone density caused due to zero gravity exposure for prolonged period. The team developed this new lettuce in the form of thousands of seeds that can fit in small ampoule. These transgenic lettuce can be grown on demand and could be consumed for the drug to be delivered. When consuming this lettuce is not possible, then astronauts can be extracted and purified in such a way that it can be consumed orally.
The scientists used bacterium known as Agrobacterium tumefaciens to infect plant cells with a human PTH peptide fragment modified to include a protein that is crystallizable domain of a human antibody. With this modification the growth of bones can be stimulated and hormones can be stabilized. These new modified lettuce can are yet to be tested as its clearance remains pending. However, the important concern remains about this discovery is increasing PTH output from plants and their growth in space condition.