The bones of astronauts can be cured by modified lettuce

The key to keeping your bones healthy on long journeys may lie in eating freshly modified salads – as well as growing.

That’s the idea of ​​a team of researchers from the University of California at Davis, who modified the genome of the lettuce so it could synthesize a bone -living drug. The researchers say their work is a first step in using plants to create all kinds of medicines that astronauts will need when they travel to Mars and establish space stations. .

“It’s part of a broader mindset, where we try to use all the resources we have, whether it’s on a plane or the Moon or Mars,” the member said. UC Davis ’Kevin Yates at an online media conference on March 22. The brief was held as part of the American Chemical Society’s spring meeting in San Diego.

Losing a bone can be difficult for a long distance. Normally, the bones constantly refine themselves, releasing the mass in a process called resorption and making new ones to replace it. Over the years, it is common for people to lose about half a percent of their bone marrow each year.

But with microgravity, when the bones do not carry the load of our body, studies have shown that with increased resorption, the bones weaken to a condition called osteopenia. (Osteopenia can later lead to osteoporosis, when the bones are completely broken when broken.) In general, some bones can lose 10 percent of their size in just 6 months. – and a flight to Mars can take up to 10 months.

To make bone -strengthening lettuce, the team modified the plant’s genome to produce a substance called parathyroid hormone (PTH), which stimulates bone growth. The hormone was previously used in an FDA -approved drug called Forteo to treat osteopenia, but required daily injections, it is difficult to manage and administer in one. recorded aircraft circuit.

ʻAi letus

Why letus? In addition to being easy to eat, astronauts have previously shown that they can grow with minimal resources on the International Space Station, harvesting their first crop of leaves in 2015. Lettuce also produces a lot of fruit, which is easy when trying. make wood in the air. “If you grow that plant and harvest the seeds, you can produce thousands of seeds,” said Karen McDonald of the UC Davis team. “It’s a very simple way to do a therapeutic.”

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