Clemson-led cotton genome study bound for International Space Station

December 15, 2021

Researchers seek to unlock the cotton genome and develop solutions to satisfy the growing demand for fuel, food and fiber utilizing microgravity aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft.

The team of researchers led by Clemson University’s Chris Saski, associate professor of systems genomics, are working to explore the cotton genome. The goal is to facilitate the ability to directly edit the genome of elite cotton varieties, quickly adding traits like disease resistance or drought tolerance without the need for the lengthy conventional breeding process that can take over a decade.

“Conducting these experiments in microgravity gives us a unique environment to disentangle the genetics of somatic embryogenesis — regenerating a whole plant from a single cell — and we believe we can translate this research into application,” said Saski. “This project will lead to new understanding of the genes involved. As we understand it now, this genetic program is encoded in all crop genomes, but it is suppressed. This research could ultimately allow us to switch on this genetic program in other crops and be able to do genome editing and engineering more readily and directly on commercial varieties … and eventually provide an accelerated path to food, fuel and fiber for a growing population of people on Earth.”

Saski’s research project was selected as a winner in the Cotton Sustainability Challenge, which is run by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and funded by Target Corporation, providing researchers and innovators the opportunity to propose solutions to improve crop production on Earth by sending their concepts to the ISS U.S. National Laboratory. CASIS is the organization tasked by NASA to manage the ISS National Lab.

If you’d like to speak with Saski and the research team, please click here.

Read the full announcement here: