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Synthetic Biology for Recycling Human Waste into Nutraceuticals and Materials: Closing the Loop for Long-Term Space Travel

Mark Blenner
Clemson University


Mark Blenner
Mark Blenner

It is impractical for astronauts to travel with all necessary supplies in future long-term space exploration missions. Therefore, it is imperative that technologies enabling the production of food, nutraceuticals, medicine, and materials from extraterrestrial resources are developed. These resources found in space include minerals and feedstocks found on distant bodies, waste generated by humans and space shuttle operation, and solar energy. Together with synthetic biology-driven technology for engineering microorganisms that can reliably, efficiently, and flexibly utilize such “in situ resources”, astronauts will be able to generate the food, nutraceuticals, medicine, and materials they need to carry out their mission. Due to potential uncertainty in resource availability, this proposal focuses on engineering yeast to convert respiration CO2 algae biomass and human urine into nutritional omega-3 fats and 3D printable plastics.

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