Space Experiment Milestone

Since beginning work on the NASA sponsored space flight experiment, Wyatt Lab researchers have plated more than 70,000 Arabidopsis seeds. Many of the seeds were hand-counted, and all of them have been used to refine the RNA and protein extraction protocols for seedlings germinated in microgravity environments.

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Figure 1: Graduate researcher, Proma Basu, plates seeds in preparation for placement into a simulated BRIC environment. For the space-flown experiment, each plate contains 800 seeds.

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BRIC-20 Space Experiment – The Hardware

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NASA engineers refer to the Wyatt Lab space-flown seeds experiment as BRIC-20. “BRIC” is a NASA acronym meaning biological research in canisters and refers to the hardware the experiment is sealed in for the duration of the space flight. BRICs were developed to ensure that the contents … Continue reading

Fun Facts – Why Arabidopsis?

If NASA is going to spend all the time and trouble to send plants into space aboard the International Space Station (ISS), you might wonder why Arabidopsis thaliana?

Arabidopsis thaliana (commonly called Arabidopsis)  is a small flowering plant native to Eurasia. Arabidopsis has enjoyed a long history as a model organism for scientists interested in plant biology and genomic research. Model plants are selected for their traits with the understanding that insights into the research model plant will yield insights to other plant species. One key aspect that makes Arabidopsis a good model organism is its genome. Arabidopsis has one of the smallest genomes of any plant, and as a result of its reduced genetic complexity, it was the first plant genome to be sequenced in full.

Another important quality that makes Arabidopsis so attractive to gene hunters is its size. The Arabidopsis seeds are so tiny Wyatt Lab researchers will plate 800 seeds to a single petri dish, and this is mission critical for two reasons. First, space is limited aboard the ISS, and as a result, the Wyatt Lab is only allotted 20 petri dishes total. And since the researchers need plant tissue to extract both protein and RNA, the more seeds that can fit on a dish, the better.

In summary, by sending a model organism (in this case, Arabidopsis) into space, Wyatt Lab researchers are able to tap into and leverage the enormous amount of genomic research already compiled on this amazing little space traveller. And after all, why reinvent the allele?

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Fun Facts – The Eagle has landed …

You might not be surprised to learn that on July 21st, 1969 when Neil Armstrong took that first big step onto the surface of the moon, Sarah Wyatt was back on Earth watching events unfold on the television with millions of other American youngsters. Like many other people who witnessed the first moonwalk (the one before Michael Jackson made it infamous), it made a big impact on the young Wyatt’s future.

You might be surprised to learn that since that day Wyatt has amassed a remarkable collection of NASA spaceflight paraphernalia that includes is sure to impress even the most avid space collector. So, if you ever find yourself at one of Dr. Wyatt’s famous backyard cookouts, make sure you ask to see the collection!

apollo-11

Learn more about the Apollo 11 mission here: