Cannabis will be crossing the final frontier and rocketing out to space as part of an experiment on the International Space Station (ISS).
Researchers at Kentucky’s Space Tango will be sending up hemp plants in their payload of bioengineering experiments to the ISS. The seeds are being supplied by Atolo Holdings, also based in Kentucky, and will be grown on the ISS for six weeks before returning to Earth. The cannabis plants are scheduled to depart Earth from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on April 30 as part of the Commercial Resupply Services-17 mission.
The plants will be riding alongside several other experiments in microwave-sized “CubeLab” modules. Two are using artificial organs bioengineered from real human lung and bran cells to study how microgravity changes the response in immunity and neural function, and another will study fluid exchange in culture plates.
“The focus of the Microgravity Exposure on Medicinal Plant Seeds investigation, flying on SpaceX CRS-17, is to evaluate hemp seeds and their potential opportunities for the discovery of biomedical applications related to CBD when exposed to microgravity—an area that is being highly studied due to the recent FDA approval of hemp and cannabis-derived drugs for conditions like epilepsy,” read the company’s statement about the planned experiment.
The seeds will also be grown on Earth after the experiment is over to create a baseline to find: identification of stress factors; alterations in expression of dormant and dominant genes; changes in plant biology in chemistry; access to the diverse array of potential medically important but untested and unevaluated cannabinoids; and propagating clones of microgravity-exposed plants.
“When plants are ‘stressed,’ they pull from a genetic reservoir to produce compounds that allow them to adapt and survive,” said Space Tango Science Advisory Team member Dr. Joe Chappell to Techcrunch last fall when the experiments were first announced. “Understanding how plants react in an environment where the traditional stress of gravity is removed can provide new insights into how adaptations come about and how researchers might take advantage of such changes for the discovery of new characteristics, traits, biomedical applications and efficacy.”