How does the altered gravity experienced during space flight change the abilities of animals to respond to stress or to resist food-borne pathogens? A team of ISU scientists, including GDCB Professor and Interim Department Chair, Jo Anne Powell-Coffman, has received funding from NASA to examine this question. The initial studies of their research project, entitled, NRA: Research Opportunities in Space Biology, Integrative Response of C. elegans to Environmental Stresses in Microgravity, are land based, and they use the microscopic nematode C. elegans as a genetic model organism. This project is supported by a diverse team of investigators, including Dr. Jo Anne Powell-Coffman, Dr. Gregory Phillips in the Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Preventive Medicine, and Drs. Santosh Pandey and Umesh Vaidya from the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.
In the near-term, the team will test the hypothesis that microgravity will affect the ability of C. elegans to survive in the presence of Salmonella bacteria. Future efforts will take advantage of the genetic tools available in C. elegans to understand how space flight influences the abilities of animals to respond to bacterial pathogens.