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Venter: Send Synthetic Genomics to Space

Speaking to a crowd of scientists at the Space Manufacturing 14: Critical Technologies for Space Settlement meeting held in Moffett Field, Calif., last week, Craig Venter said he could think of no organization "that could benefit from synthetic genomics more than NASA," reports Space.com's Mike Wall. Venter also indicated specific ways in which the space agency could better select astronaut candidates via genetic screening for genes associated with traits — such as robust bone regeneration — that "help make good spaceflyers," as "bone loss is typically a major side effect of living in microgravity," according to Wall. In addition, Venter proposed that NASA engineers could create a "synthetic microbiome" to eliminate the presence of specific pathogens, help astronauts take up nutrients more efficiently, and rid the body of odor-causing gut microbes to improve "their ability to get along with each other in close quarters," Wall adds. Of course, Venter also hypothesized the ways in which synthetic genomics could enhance the agency's food and fuel supplies in the future, and, he told meeting attendees, fundamentally "change the shape of what NASA does."

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