Scientists are sending cotton to space with the aim of conducting experiments in microgravity to disentangle the genetics of somatic embryogenesis.
On December 21, 2021, Clemson University's cotton research will take off from the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida bound for the International Space Station onboard the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft. The project will be conducted in microgravity to determine the ability to directly edit the genome of elite cotton varieties with disease resistance and drought tolerance traits while avoiding the lengthy conventional breeding process.
The project will allow scientists to draw conclusions from experiments done in microgravity, which provides a unique environment to disentangle the genetics of somatic embryogenesis. It will help them explore the cotton genome and how it reacts to microgravity versus in normal gravity, while also understanding how callus cells divide and regenerate in space and how this affects the quality of transformed cells. According to the scientists, discovering the mechanism and genetic factors behind somatic embryogenesis will help them understand better the cellular reprogramming of somatic embryogenesis to accelerate the delivery of cotton varieties with multiple desirable traits. Understanding the genetic architecture, and coordination of embryogenesis can hopefully lead to further genetic research programs to conduct genome editing and engineering easily on different crop varieties, not just cotton, to contribute to the global demands of food, fuel, and fiber.
(Source: Crop Biotech Update, International Service for Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications.