Drosophila melanogaster and the future of 'evo-devo' biology in space. Challenges and problems in the path of an eventual colonization project outside the earth
Marco, R., et al. (2003). "Drosophila melanogaster and the future of 'evo-devo' biology in space. Challenges and problems in the path of an eventual colonization project outside the earth." Adv Space Biol Med 9: 41-81
Space exploration, especially its future phase involving the International Space Station (ISS) makes possible the study of the effects on living systems of long-term expositions to such a strange environment. This phase is being initiated when Biological Sciences are crossing a no-return line into a new territory where the connection between phenotype and genotype may be finally made. We briefly review the paradoxical results obtained in Space experiments performed during the last third of the XX Century. They reveal that simple unicellular systems sense the absence of gravity changing their cytoskeletal organization and the signal transduction pathways, while animal development proceeds unaltered in these conditions, in spite of the fact that these processes are heavily involved in embryogenesis. Longer-term experiments possible in the ISS may solve this apparent contradiction. On the other hand, the current constraints on the scientific use of the ISS makes necessary the development of new hardware and the modification of current techniques to start taking advantage of this extraordinary technological facility. We discuss our advances in this direction using one of the current key biological model systems, Drosophila melanogaster. In addition, the future phase of Space exploration, possibly leading to the exploration and, may be, the colonization of another planet, will provide the means of performing interesting evolutionary experiments, studying how the terrestrial biological systems will change in their long-term adaptation to new, very different environments. In this way, Biological Research in Space may contribute to the advancement of the new Biology, in particular to the branch known as "Evo-Devo". On the other hand, as much as the Space Adventure will continue involving human beings as the main actors in the play, long-term multi-generation experiments using a fast reproducing species, such as Drosophila melanogaster, capable of producing more than 300 generations in 15 years, the useful life foreseen for ISS, will be important. Among other useful information, they will help in detecting the possible changes that a biological species may undergo in such an environment, preventing the uncontrolled occurrence of irreversible deleterious effects with catastrophic consequences on the living beings participating in this endeavour.
ISSN: 1569-2574 (Print) 1569-2574 (Linking)
Accession Number: 14631629