Of the many possible pitfalls to consider in space travel, one is: what happens when you get sick and there’s no more medicine? One scientist, medicinal chemist Clay Wang, envisions a revolutionary solution: growing medicine in space using fungus.
According to this Popular Science article, the “stresses of space” may activate new genetic pathways, generating novel compounds and new medicines.
Via Pop Sci:
Wang, conveniently, runs a lab at the University of Southern California that studies natural medicine. This past April, his lab sent specimens of the soil fungus Aspergillus nidulans to the International Space Station to see how it might fare on a Martian odyssey.
The results are pending, but Wang is curious to know whether the stresses of space activate previously unknown genetic pathways in the fungus. This could cause A. nidulans to generate novel compounds and lead to new medicines for Earthlings and astronauts alike.
“It’s like a factory where many of the machines have always been switched off,” says Wang. “In space, those machines might suddenly turn on for the first time.” Once scientists better understand how the space environment affects the fungus’s biology, Wang’s hope is that astronauts could then replicate the process to manufacture their own drugs on the long journey to Mars.