The basis of medicines and food in space will be lettuce. Why

Lettuce can be eaten, medicines and materials can be made from it - all these properties will help space


Is there a problem with food in space?

Now astronauts on board the ISS are mostlyeat dry rations, fresh food is delivered to them from time to time when a new spaceship arrives. This means people get used to the menu quickly, said Matthew Gilliam, director of the Waite Research Institute at the University of Adelaide.

Astronauts lose 10% of their body weight duringthe first few weeks of life on the space station, partly due to the monotonous diet,” said Professor Gilliam, who researches the products of the future.

So NASA is experimenting with growing plants like lettuce on the ISS.

“Lettuce is perfect because it grows pretty fast,” says Jenny Mortimer, who also studies Future Foods at the Waite Research Institute.

Why is it difficult and expensive to grow plants in space?

But growing something in microgravity is not an easy task. Some plants grow in the wrong direction, and water can stick to the roots and leaves of plants, killing them.

Therefore, NASA uses a system of fans andLED bulbs to keep your mini garden AT ISS alive. Along with lettuce, barley, radishes and, more recently, chili peppers have been grown in space.

The cost of sending food to the ISSestimated at $20,000–$40,000 per kg, with each crew member eating about 1.8 kg per day. A crew that will fly to Mars for three years will eat about 10,000–11,000 kg of food. Along with the cost of transporting and storing these tons of food, most essential vitamins are only good for 12 months, such as vitamins B and C.

Dr. Mortimer said that small vegetablegarden beds will not only provide space travelers with fresh food and nutrients in the short term, but will also help with long-term travel.

Why are there drugs in space?

Astronauts lose an average of about 1% of their bone mass per month. They usually stay at the station for no more than six months.

"Astronauts on the ISS have their own exercise regimen to try and maintain bone mass," said Kevin Yates, the project's spokesman at the American Chemistry meeting.

A round trip to Mars will take aboutthree years. To prevent bone loss during this period of time, you need not only to train hard, but also to inject yourself with parathyroid hormone (PTH) every day.

How to make medicine from lettuce?

Plants can also be modified tohave become a source of medicines and materials such as plastics. According to Professor Gilliam, over the past few years there has been significant progress in the production of molecules, drugs and even plastics from biological organisms. In addition, plants are easier to grow and modify than single-celled organisms such as bacteria and yeasts.

“You can put a molecule in different partsplant tissue and store it where it does not interfere with the development of the plant,” Matthew Gilliam, director of the Waite Research Institute at the University of Adelaide.

Some drugs, such as dopamine, areused for Parkinson's disease - and insulin - used for diabetes - can be made with a modification, like a tomato. Then you just need to extract and clean the drug. But the approach of the authors of the work was different. They genetically modify the plant to produce the right molecules, and then people eat its leaves.

The researchers attached the molecule to the geneticparathyroid hormone code to keep it stable, and then transferred it to lettuce with the help of bacteria. The idea is that the astronauts can then eat the medicine instead of injecting it.

Lettuce added genes that turned it intoedible drug, so it is classified as genetically modified. This means that it can only be grown under controlled conditions in accordance with current regulations.

Preliminary results show that inOn average, plants produce about 10–12 milligrams of the modified hormone per kilogram of fresh lettuce. This means that an astronaut needs to eat eight cups of salad a day to get enough of the hormone to maintain his bones.

Lettuce will definitely appear on the ISS or mission to Mars?

So far, there is no clear answer.Now the team plans to improve the properties of the lettuce to make it more efficient in producing the drug so astronauts won't have to eat as much of it. Scientists would also like to see how it grows on the ISS.

But so far, no one knows what the salad tastes like because it has not been tested for safety in animals or humans.

Another important question is what is the dosage of the drug for each lettuce leaf. Is it possible to make it the same in order to control the amount at the time of admission.

What other promising plants are there?

Duckweed. This is a plant that divides every two to three days and grows on the surface of water bodies. There are 35 species in Australia.

This means that the production of duckweed can be veryincrease quickly. It is an aquatic plant, but its closest relatives are wheat and barley. Therefore, duckweed has a lot of nutrients. It has a good balance of protein, starch, and fat, and is fairly easy to digest. It also takes much less time to grow than cereals.

Professor Gilliam said that studies of suchPlants like lettuce and duckweed could not only help astronauts, but also provide more sustainable sources of food, medicine, and other materials on Earth.

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