NASA SBIR 2003 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER:03-B2.01-8971 (For NASA Use Only - Chron: 034034)
SUBTOPIC TITLE:Understanding and Utilizing Gravitational Effects on Plants and Animals
PROPOSAL TITLE:Aseptic Plant Culture System (APCS)

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Orbital Technologies Corp
Space Center, 1212 Fourier Drive
Madison ,WI 53717 - 1961
(608) 827 - 5000

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Robert C Morrow
Orbital Technologies Corporation, 1212 Fourier Drive
Madison ,WI  53717 -1961
(608) 827 - 5000
U.S. Citizen or Legal Resident: Yes

Aseptic plant culture plays a significant role in biotechnology and plant physiology research and in vegetative propagation of many plant species. The development of an Aseptic Plant Culture System would provide a mechanism for experimentation as well as for transporting and storing vegetatively propagated plant material in space. Most culture systems are passive, with no environmental monitoring or control. This project proposes to develop a full environmental control and monitoring system for aseptic culture that can accommodate, without modification, a variety of standard culture vessels. The system would consist of a base unit into which culture vessels can be plugged or unplugged as desired. Multiple culture vessel sizes and shapes could be accommodated using a generic connector system. Environmental parameters controlled and monitored would include light level and spectral quality, photoperiod, air and media temperature, humidity, and atmospheric composition. Using innovative, high precision miniature environmental control components would allow each vessel to maintain independent control set-points if desired. Particular challenges include development of a miniaturized humidity control system, precise control of the gaseous environment in small volumes, and maintaining sterility for an extended duration.

The APCS can be used to accommodate experiments requiring sterile plant culture in a reduced gravity environment. The APCS would be well suited for physiology and biotechnology experiments using Arabidopsis explants or seedlings and could also be used to maintain propagules in a well defined environment as a source of transplants for on-going experiments. The APCS could be flown as an insert in incubators, plant growth units, or even in a standard middeck locker. In the long term, components of the APCS could be part of the plant propagation system used to maintain stock plants for bioregenerative life support systems.

An APCS would provide a tool for research on optimizing the tissue culture environment, provide the ability to conduct a range of experiments at the culture vessel level, and support the ability to manipulate the culture environment to increase quantity and quality of plant materials grown from vegetatively propagated stock. These capabilities would be of use in university and college laboratories, and in commercial agricultural operations developing genetically modified plants or vegetatively propagating plants (e.g. orchids, seed potatoes). Another potential use would be in pre-college and college level science classes and in advanced biology outreach programs.