Remote automated multi-generational growth and observation of an animal in low Earth orbit.
J R Soc Interface
© 2011 The Royal Society. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
The ultimate survival of humanity is dependent upon colonization of other planetary bodies. Key challenges to such habitation are (patho)physiologic changes induced by known, and unknown, factors associated with long-duration and distance space exploration. However, we currently lack biological models for detecting and studying these changes. Here, we use a remote automated culture system to successfully grow an animal in low Earth orbit for six months. Our observations, over 12 generations, demonstrate that the multi-cellular soil worm Caenorhabditis elegans develops from egg to adulthood and produces progeny with identical timings in space as on the Earth. Additionally, these animals display normal rates of movement when fully fed, comparable declines in movement when starved, and appropriate growth arrest upon starvation and recovery upon re-feeding. These observations establish C. elegans as a biological model that can be used to detect changes in animal growth, development, reproduction and behaviour in response to environmental conditions during long-duration spaceflight. This experimental system is ready to be incorporated on future, unmanned interplanetary missions and could be used to study cost-effectively the effects of such missions on these biological processes and the efficacy of new life support systems and radiation shielding technologies.
CeMM was provided by NASA Ames Research Centre. Student participation was facilitated by Orion's Quest (orionsquest.org). Thanks to Thomas Drummond and Peter Lawrie and the participating schools for ‘Mission III’ (listed in the electronic supplementary material). N.J.S. was supported by grants from NASA (NNA04CK22A) and NIH NIAMS (AR054342). E.A.O. was supported by a PA Space Foundation Grant. T.E. was supported by MRC (G0801271). D.B. was supported by the Canadian Space Agency. Agensi Angkasa Negara (Malaysia) provided funding for development and in-flight operation of the experiment.
Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
This is the final version of the article. Available from Royal Society via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 9, Iss. 68, pp. 596 - 599
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