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A Colorado research lab is working with a space company and the University of Colorado’s Boulder Research Institute to send hemp and coffee into space to learn more about the power plants.
Front Range Biosciences, an agro technology company researching hemp and other cultivation aspects, has just announced a plan that will transport hemp and coffee tissue cultures to the International Space Station, where they will be cultured and screened for potential genetic mutations that plant cells may be subject to in various degrees of severity that could have commercial and medical uses.
Front Range’s Lafayette laboratory and research team has partnered with BioServe Space Technologies, a CU Boulder institute studying life sciences in microgravity, to bring hemp and coffee aboard SpaceX CRS-20, a cargo flight scheduled for March 2020, to send to the space station front range. The study calls for 480 plant cell cultures to remain in an incubator aboard the ISS for about a month, with BioServe remotely monitoring environmental conditions at CU Boulder.
After the hemp and coffee samples are returned to Earth, Front Range will look for changes they have experienced during various stages of weightlessness and space radiation exposure. The stress levels of coffee and hemp are also monitored, with ISS scientists taking notes that could affect future experiments with zero gravity plant growth.
“This is one of the first times anyone has researched the effects of microgravity and space travel on hemp and coffee cell cultures,” says Dr. Jonathan Vaught, CEO of Front Range, in a statement. “There is science to support the theory that plants experience mutations in space. This is an opportunity to see if those mutations will hold when they are brought back to Earth and if there are new commercial uses.”
We are awaiting confirmation of the study by NASA, which is monitoring American activities on board the ISS. However, industrial hemp is no longer a taboo research topic for federal agencies like NASA, as the plant can now be grown legally.
The study is funded by SpaceCells, a company studying the effects of microgravity on Earth’s biology, including disease cells and vegetation, for commercial purposes. Coffee’s magical awakening powers are well known, but it has also shown great promise as a dietary supplement for burning fat and reducing the risk of certain forms of cancer and diabetes. Industrial hemp is a manufacturer of commercial fiber, among other sustainable materials, as well as a source of CBD and other non-intoxicating cannabinoids popular in the wellness industry.
And that first start could just be the beginning of something big.
“We imagine that this is the first of many joint experiments,” predicts BioServe chief scientist Louis Stodieck. “In the future, we plan to have the crew harvest and conserve the plants at different points in their growth cycle so that we can analyze which metabolic pathways are switched on and off. This is a fascinating research area with considerable potential. “
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Thomas Mitchell has been a cannabis-related writer for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate, and general news for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman, and Fox Sports. He is currently the cannabis editor for westword.com.