National Laboratory Pathfinder - Cells - Jatropha Biofuels (NLP-Cells-3,4,6,7) (NLP-Cells-Jatropha Biofuels) - 01.29.14

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery
ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone National Lab Pathfinder-Cells-Jatropha Biofuels (NLP-Cells-Jatropha Biofuels) assesses the effects of microgravity on formation, establishment and multiplication of undifferentiated cells of the Jatropha (Jatropha curcas), a biofuel plant, using different tissues as explant sources from different genotypes of Jatropha. Specific goals include the evaluation of changes in cell structure, growth and development, genetic changes, and differential gene expression. Postflight analysis identifies significant changes that occur in microgravity, which could contribute, to accelerating the breeding and genetic improvement processes for the development of new cultivars of this biofuel plant.

Science Results for Everyone

Jatropha is a tropical perennial plant with potential as a biofuel crop. Plant cultures from the cotyledon (seed embryo), leaf, and stem sections of jatropha plants from Brazil, India, and Tanzania were grown on the International Space Station. Researchers observed that different geographic origins, plant part type, and petri dish environments on the space station affected cell growth. But overall, growth showed no abnormalities. This suggests jatropha in vitro cell cultures are suitable for growth in space, providing basic groundwork for future microgravity studies using jatropha cell cultures, including those focused on culture growth and potential genetic changes and differential gene expression.



This content was provided by Wagner Vendrame, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.

Experiment Details

OpNom

Principal Investigator(s)

  • Wagner Vendrame, Ph.D., University of Florida, Homestead, FL, United States

  • Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)
  • John Wayne Kennedy, Zero Gravity Inc, Stevensville, MD, United States

  • Developer(s)
    Tropical Research and Education Center, Homestead, FL, United States

    University of Colorado at Boulder, BioServe Space Technologies, Boulder, CO, United States

    Vecenergy (The Vecellio Group), West Palm Beach, FL, United States

    Zero Gravity Incorporated, Stevensville, MD, United States

    Sponsoring Space Agency
    National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

    Sponsoring Organization
    National Laboratory (NL)

    Research Benefits
    Information Pending

    ISS Expedition Duration
    October 2009 - September 2011

    Expeditions Assigned
    21/22,23/24,25/26,27/28

    Previous ISS Missions
    The first NLP-Cells investigation flew to ISS during Expedition 18 on STS-126/ULF2.

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    Experiment Description

    Research Overview

    • National Lab Pathfinder-Cells-Jatropha Biofuels (NLP-Cells-Jatropha Biofuels) is an investigation conducted by the University of Florida and sponsored by Vecenergy (The Vecellio Group) in collaboration with Zero Gravity Incorporated (ZGI), one of the two companies to have signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA under the ISS National Lab. NLP-Cells- Jatropha Biofuels aims at understanding the effects of microgravity on living systems.

    • This investigation examines the effects of microgravity on cell structure, growth and development, genetic changes, and differential gene expression of undifferentiated cells of Jatropha curcas from different explants tissues.

    Description
    National Lab Pathfinder - Cells - Jatropha Biofuels (NLP-Cells- Jatropha Biofuels) is an experiment conducted by the University of Florida in partnership with Vecenergy (The Vecellio Group) and Zero Gravity Incorporated (ZGI). The experiment assesses the effects of microgravity on undifferentiated cells of the Jatropha curcas, a biofuel plant.
    The objective of this research is to verify the potential changes in cell structure, DNA, and gene expression that occur in microgravity, and how such changes could contribute for improving characteristics of interest for the development of new cultivars of J. curcas. Specific goals include the evaluation of changes in cell structure using microscopy techniques, growth and development using in vitro techniques, DNA changes using molecular markers, and differential gene expression using microarray technology.
    The results are analyzed postflight, identifying changes of significant nature that occur on orbit and that could contribute for the development of new cultivars of this biofuel plant. In this particular experiment, different treatments are combined, including different sources of tissues as explants for generating undifferentiated cells, different genotypes of Jatropha, different culture media, and different culture systems.

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    Applications

    Space Applications
    This investigation is part of a series of investigations conducted on board the ISS to provide the foundation for use of the ISS as a National Laboratory following assembly complete.

    Earth Applications
    The long-term goal of this project is to enhance the ability to introduce new genetic information into cells and to examine the effects of space flight on the normal differentiation and function of undifferentiated plant cells. The J. curcas plant, which is also known as the "physic nut" is a small tree from the Euphorbiaceae family that produces seeds from which oil can be extracted for use as biofuel. It has been demonstrated that J. curcas is a feasible species for the commercial production of biodiesel. The oil is of excellent quality and amenable also for jet fuel mixes. J. curcas is a tropical plant with an oil content of about 38% within the seeds. However, J. curcas is not currently being cultivated as a crop, since no commercial cultivars exist. Therefore the development of J. curcas cultivars with improved characteristics is highly desirable. Such studies can contribute for the development of US-based new cultivars of an alternative energy crop that can be readily available to US farmers while contributing towards energy independence from fossil fuel sources. Microgravity might be able to induce genetic changes that result in positive characteristics for the development of superior jatropha cultivars. That would be a means of accelerating the breeding and genetic improvement of jatropha towards the commercialization of such superior jatropha cultivars.

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    Operations

    Operational Requirements
    The experiment is placed inside CGBA-5 on station once the shuttle docks. At that point the samples are temperature controlled until they are ready for return to Earth via shuttle. There are seven GAPs with eight petri dishes each and two additional GAPs with eight FPAs. One of these two GAPs with FPAs is activated and terminated while on board the ISS.

    Operational Protocols
    The seven Petri GAPs remain stowed inside CGBA under temperature control while on board the ISS. The one FPA GAP is activated by a crew member at a given point once on board the ISS. At a predetermined time frame after activation, the crewmember again accesses the one activated GAP with FPAs and terminates the experiment. This GAP is returned to CGBA with the other eight GAPs for return to Earth via shuttle.

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    Results/More Information

    This study aimed to compare the in vitro growth of plant cultures from three different plant parts, cotyledon, leaf and stem sections, derived from jatropha from different geographic locations (Brazil, India and Tanzania) outside and inside the petriGAP. Cell growth was observed for all jatropha accessions both inside and outside the petriGAP for all evaluated plant materials. Growth parameters were affected by geographic origin, plant part type and environment. The type of plant part type influenced the type of cell growth and subsequent plantlet regeneration capacity. Overall growth showed no abnormalities. The current study shows jatropha in vitro cell cultures are suitable for growth inside petriGAPs for a period of twelve weeks. The parameters evaluated in this study provide the basic ground work and preflight assessment needed to justify a model for microgravity studies with jatropha in vitro cell cultures. Future studies should focus on results of experiments performed with jatropha in vitro cultures in microgravity, including culture growth and potential genetic changes and differential gene expression (Vendrame 2013).

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    Results Publications

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    Ground Based Results Publications

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    ISS Patents

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    Related Publications

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    Related Websites
    BioServe Space Technologies

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    Imagery

    image Seedlings of J. curcas in greenhouse prior to transplanting to field. Seeds of J. curcas are germinated and grown in greenhouse for 4-6 weeks prior to being transplanted to the field. Image courtesy of Dr. Wagner A. Vendrame, University of Florida, Homestead, FL.
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    image Plants of J. curcas in the field showing fruit production. Fruit production in J. curcas starts around 4-6 months after transplanted to field. Image courtesy of Dr. Wagner A. Vendrame, University of Florida, Homestead, FL.
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    image Fruits of J. curcas Fruits are produced terminally in the branches. Each fruit contains 3 seeds. Image courtesy of Dr. Wagner A. Vendrame, University of Florida, Homestead, FL.
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    image Seeds of J. curcas Seeds are pressed for oil extraction, which can be utilized as biofuel. Image courtesy of Dr. Wagner A. Vendrame, University of Florida, Homestead, FL.
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    image Fluid Processing Apparatus (FPA) containing cell suspensions of J. curcas. The FPAs are assembled into the Group Activation Pack (GAP), which is transported to the ISS for microgravity studies. Image courtesy of Dr. Wagner A. Vendrame, University of Florida, Homestead, FL.
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    image Undifferentiated cell cultures of J. curcas Leaf and stem sections of J. curcas are utilized to initiate undifferentiated cell cultures by submitting them to a growth medium in agar containing plant growth regulators. Image courtesy of Dr. Wagner A. Vendrame, University of Florida, Homestead, FL.
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    image This image shows the Group Activation Packs (GAPs) that house the specimens for NLP-Cells for their on-orbit operations. Image courtesy of BioServe Space Technologies, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO.
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