Will launching plants into orbit yield new medicines?

A team of biologists and chemists is launching plants into space in the hopes that it will revamp our oldest source of remedies for the 21st century.

LEXINGTON, Ky. — The test tubes didn’t look much like planet Earth. There were four of them stuck into a white, 3-D printed frame, each one home to a spindly plant sprouting from a dab of lab-made jelly. It was to a garden what Soylent is to confit de canard with fingerling potatoes and mesclun greens.

But once inserted into an aluminum metal box, propelled out of our atmosphere, and plugged into the International Space Station, this arrangement was supposed to mimic everything about our world — except for one important detail.

There would be almost

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from STAT

STAT4 min readPsychology
It’s Not Just Bosses Who Harass Health Workers: Hospitals Start Addressing Patients’ ‘Egregious’ Behavior
There's growing awareness that it’s not just bosses and colleagues who sexually harass health care workers. Often, it’s the patients who are doing the harassing.
STAT5 min readPolitics
Opinion: Wider Use Of Assisted Outpatient Treatment Could Help Individuals With Mental Illness
Many states still rely on laws that require individuals to become dangerous to themselves or others before they can be treated without their consent. We need laws that that prevent…
STAT9 min readWellness
‘The Switch’ Was Supposed To Be A Major Step Toward Eradicating Polio. Now It’s A Quandary
A change in polio vaccination policies was supposed to put the world on a better footing to finally eliminate a global scourge. It's gotten complicated.