“Bendy Box: A new tool to study plant biomechanics in space” NASA EPSCoR RID Seed Grant
Erin Sparks, University of Delaware
Short- or long-term exposure to microgravity has detrimental impacts on both plants and animals. The cellular response to gravity is based on the ability of cells to sense and respond to mechanical cues. These pathways, called mechanotransduction pathways, are evolutionarily conserved across living systems. However, there is currently a lack of understanding about how microgravity impacts cellular mechanotransduction pathways and the tissue-level mechanical outcomes of altering these pathways. However, before these research questions can be addressed, there is a need for a system to measure the tissue-level mechanical outcomes of altering mechanotransduction pathways in space. This proposal aims to develop a self-contained growth and biomechanics measurement system for plants – the “Bendy Box”. This system will be designed to deploy into space and provide automated displacement and measurement of individual forces. The future utility of this system will be to link mechanotransduction pathways to mechanical responses during spaceflight.