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.Principal Investigator(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
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)Sponsoring Organization
National Laboratory (NL)ISS Expedition Duration:
October 2009 - September 2011
21/22,23/24,25/26,27/28Previous ISS Missions
The first NLP-Cells investigation flew to ISS during Expedition 18 on STS-126/ULF2.
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.
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.
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.