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NC State News

Sending Out an SOS

Plants in space miss Earth’s gravity. After just five minutes of weightlessness, plants send out signals at the molecular level.

Without gravity to tell plants which end is up, normal growth is disrupted—a problem for long-term space missions where plants could be used to clean the air, purify the water and provide food.

NC State researchers are delving into the problem with an experiment on the final space shuttle flight. They’re tracking the growth of plants that have a mammalian gene inserted. The gene produces an enzyme to block molecular signals in weightless plants as soon as they come up.

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