Returning with a new team, LEO3 has again won the 1st Place prize in the Best Science Experiment with a study of the molecular changes in biological organisms when exposed to the stressful environment of the stratosphere and how that might be applied to bio-engineer plants on earth.
Link to report: here
From the team: "„LEO3 - Let’s Explore Ozone” concerns global ecology and stress resistance of living microorganisms and plants.
In changing climate, rapid environmental changes appear more often, what might influence ecosystem balance, productivity, product quality and competitive ability of agricultural plants. Understanding the basic mechanisms underlying survival behavior would help to bioengineer new types of resistant plants. Harsh environmental conditions affecting all Eucaryotes are high daily temperature variations, limited water access and exposure to elevated ozone's or other harsh chemicals' concentration. Multiple stress responses appear after exposure to harsh environmental factors. Early stress response genes are very conservative among species. In this study we aimed to analyze dynamics of stress responsivity among yeasts, algae, Antarctic lichens, and plants including model plant Arabidopsis thaliana and ozone bioindicator Nicotiana sp. The aim of this study was to investigate molecular and morphological changes of biological organisms in response to stratospheric stress. We looked at viability, cell culture’s morphology, cell growth, new generations, and molecular changes using nuclear magnetic resonance technique. Among selected species, the most resistant organisms were yeasts and lichens. Since no differences were observed for vitality tests, we hoped to detect mild stress reactions in this species. As expected, NMR analysis revealed differences in obtained spectra. In contrary to yeasts and lichens, plants were very sensitive to the flight conditions. Interestingly, Nicotiana tabacum cells were more viable after the flight then control cells what means, that fast protective mechanisms might be activated inside the stressed cells. No deleterious ozone effect on Nicotiana was observed suggesting that short exposure to elevated ozone concentration might not affect chlorophyll degradation. The mission was launched in two balloon flights during the Near Space Conference organized by Copernicus Project Foundation in Toruń on 16th of April 2016."