Free Newsletters - Space News - Defense Alert - Environment Report - Energy Monitor
. Space Travel News .




SPACE TRAVEL
Bright pulses of light could make space veggies more nutritious
by Staff Writers
Boulder CO (SPX) Mar 06, 2014


Former undergraduate researcher Elizabeth Lombardi talks with Professor Barbara Demmig-Adams in the greenhouse on the roof of the Ramaley building at the University of Colorado Boulder. Image courtesy Casey A. Cass/University of Colorado.

Exposing leafy vegetables grown during spaceflight to a few bright pulses of light daily could increase the amount of eye-protecting nutrients produced by the plants, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder.

One of the concerns for astronauts during future extended spaceflights will be the onslaught of eye-damaging radiation they'll be exposed to. But astronauts should be able to mitigate radiation-induced harm to their eyes by eating plants that contain carotenoids, especially zeaxanthin, which is known to promote eye health.

Zeaxanthin could be ingested as a supplement, but there is evidence that human bodies are better at absorbing carotenoids from whole foods, such as green leafy vegetables.

Already, NASA has been studying ways to grow fresh produce during deep space missions to maintain crew morale and improve overall nutrition. Current research into space gardening tends to focus on getting the plants to grow as large as possible as quickly as possible by providing optimal light, water and fertilizer. But the conditions that are ideal for producing biomass are not necessarily ideal for the production of many nutrients, including zeaxanthin.

"There is a trade-off," said Barbara Demmig-Adams, professor of distinction in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and a co-author of the study published in the journal Acta Astronautica.

"When we pamper plants in the field, they produce a lot of biomass but they aren't very nutritious. If they have to fend for themselves-if they have to defend themselves against pathogens or if there's a little bit of physical stress in the environment-plants make defense compounds that help them survive. And those are the antioxidants that we need."

Plants produce zeaxanthin when their leaves are absorbing more sunlight than they can use, which tends to happen when the plants are stressed. For example, a lack of water might limit the plant's ability to use all the sunlight it's getting for photosynthesis. To keep the excess sunlight from damaging the plant's biochemical pathways, it produces zeaxanthin, a compound that helps safely remove excess light.

Zeaxanthin, which the human body cannot produce on its own, plays a similar protective role in our eyes.

"Our eyes are like a leaf-they are both about collecting light," Demmig-Adams said. "We need the same protection to keep us safe from intense light."

The CU-Boulder research team-which also included undergraduate researcher Elizabeth Lombardi, postdoctoral researcher Christopher Cohu and ecology and evolutionary biology Professor William Adams-set out to determine if they could find a way to "have the cake and eat it too" by simultaneously maximizing plant growth and zeaxanthin production.

Using the model plant species Arabidopsis, the team demonstrated that a few pulses of bright light on a daily basis spurred the plants to begin making zeaxanthin in preparation for an expected excess of sunlight. The pulses were short enough that they didn't interfere with the otherwise optimal growing conditions, but long enough to cause accumulation of zeaxanthin.

"When they get poked a little bit with light that's really not a problem, they get the biomechanical machine ready, and I imagine them saying, 'Tomorrow there may be a huge blast and we don't want to be unprepared,' " Demmig-Adams said.

Arabidopsis is not a crop, but past research has shown that its behavior is a good indicator of what many edible plant species will do under similar circumstances.

The idea for the study came from Lombardi, who began thinking about the challenges of growing plants during long spaceflights while working with CU-Boulder's Exploration Habitat graduate projects team in the Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences, which built a robotic gardening system that could be used in space.

While the study is published in an astronautics journal, Lombardi says the findings are applicable on Earth as well and could be especially relevant for future research into plant-based human nutrition and urban food production, which must maximize plant growth in small areas. The findings also highlight the potential for investigating how to prod plants to express traits that are already written in their genetic codes either more fully or less fully.

"Learning more about what plants already 'know' how to do and trying to manipulate them through changing their environment rather than their genes could possibly be a really fruitful area of research," Lombardi said.

.


Related Links
University of Colorado Boulder
Space Tourism, Space Transport and Space Exploration News






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News





SPACE TRAVEL
ORBITEC Supports NASA Kennedys Advanced Plant Habitat for ISS
Kennedy Space Center FL (SPX) Feb 14, 2014
Orbital Technologies Corporation is supporting a NASA Kennedy development of the Advanced Plant Habitat or (APH) for life science research and investigations on the International Space Station. The support contract awarded is for ORBITEC to co-develop, with NASA engineering, the NASA managed APH system. The APH Flight units will then be fabricated, and qualified, with an anticipated goal of bein ... read more


SPACE TRAVEL
Payload prep continues for Arianespace Soyuz for Sentinel-1A

Russia to Start Building New Manned Rocket Launch Pad in 2015

New Vostochny space center a key priority for Russian Far East

'Mission of Firsts' Showcased New Range-Safety Technology at NASA Wallops

SPACE TRAVEL
Robotic Arm Crushes Rock for Study

Relay Radio on Mars-Bound NASA Craft Passes Checkout

NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover Views Striated Ground

NASA Mars Orbiter Views Opportunity Rover on Ridge

SPACE TRAVEL
Control circuit malfunction troubles China's Yutu

China's Lunar Lander Still Operational

China Focus: Uneasy rest begins for China's troubled Yutu rover

Is Yutu Stuck?

SPACE TRAVEL
New Horizons Reaches the Final 4 AU

Thanks America, New Horizons Ahead

Countdown to Pluto

A Busy Year Begins for New Horizons

SPACE TRAVEL
What Would A Rocky Exoplanet Look Like? Atmosphere Models Seek Clues

Super-Earth' may be dead worlds

Kepler Mission Announces a Planet Bonanza, 715 New Worlds

Water is Detected in a Planet Outside Our Solar System

SPACE TRAVEL
Sierra Nevada Completes Dream Chaser Flight Profile Data Milestone

Japan Calls For New Launcher Proposals

US considers launching production of Russian rocket engines

Orion Stage Adapter Aces Structural Loads Testing

SPACE TRAVEL
China expects to launch cargo ship into space around 2016

China capable of exploring Mars

Preparation for Chang'e-5 launch on schedule

China has no plans for lunar base project

SPACE TRAVEL
Asteroid to make close pass by Earth

Silently and patiently streaking through the main asteroid belt

NEOWISE Spies Its First Comet

Radar Images of near-Earth Asteroid 2006 DP14




The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.