Turkish scientists set to cultivate plants in space for innovative genetic study

Turkish scientists set to cultivate plants in space for innovative genetic study

Turkish researchers embark on unprecedented project during nation's 1st manned space mission

By Gulseli Kenarli

ISTANBUL (AA) – Türkiye’s first manned space mission is only months away, and Turkish scientists are preparing to carry out a series of pioneering experiments on board the spacecraft.

The project is focused on how genetic intervention can be made on plants in the space environment and the efficiency of this process.

The maiden space journey is being timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Turkish Republic.

The Turkish Space Agency and the Space Technologies Research Institute of Türkiye’s Scientific and Technological Research Council (TUBITAK) have collaborated on 13 experiments.

The space study is being called “Investigation of CRISPR Gene Editing Efficiency in Plants under Microgravity Conditions,” as its aim is to explore the effects of genetic modifications on plants in a microgravity environment, shedding light on the potential for sustainable agriculture beyond Earth.

A PhD student from Yildiz Technical University in Istanbul, Tugce Celayir, who is leading the project, spoke to Anadolu about the importance of the experiment.

“In our project, we are focusing on making an analysis for the first time, which will support future studies to improve the health of plants with the genetic intervention we will make on plants. Can this analysis be done under microgravity? Can this application be done? We are looking for answers to these questions.”

Celayir added that the chosen model organism for this project is the “Arabidopsis thaliana” plant due to its rapid germination period and extensive use. This is a ground-breaking study as it marks the first attempt at genetic intervention on plant species in space conditions.

“After this study, plants that can be a food source in the future can also be used to create an artificial ecosystem and to provide an oxygen source within this ecosystem. Today, when we talk about future Mars colonies, it is important that we both create an ecosystem that will support astronauts in long-term space missions and work for the health of these plants in the ecosystem to be created.”

The mission will be launched in the final quarter of 2023 as an underling for the following space journey. The scientific venture will be completed once the analysis is started on the plant samples returned to Earth.


*Writing by Seda Sevencan


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