The Effects of Natural Space Conditions on a Living Organism
The multicellular free living nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans can be placed into suspended animation, the state in which development is halted, through the process of freezing in glycerol. When thawed, it takes C. elegans approximately 30 minutes to recover from suspended animation. The ability to be placed into suspended animation is a requirement for interstellar travel. C. elegans has exactly 302 neurons and is capable of exhibiting sophisticated learning and behavior. However, little is known about the effects that suspended animation has on physiology, especially on learning and memory. C. elegans exhibit different degrees of chemotaxis to attractive odorants based on the nutritional status. When given the choice between two odorants, most C. elegans will have an attraction to the odorant in which they experienced an abundance of food while most C. elegans will have an aversion to the odorant in which they experienced a lack of food. I studied chemotaxis under the condition of freezing in order to determine if C. elegans has a permanent memory and optimize freezing and recovery from suspended animation. Because the underlying molecular mechanisms in C. elegans are conserved even among humans, demonstrating that C. elegans is able to retain its memories implies that a human may be placed into suspended animation, reanimated, and still remember the life they once lived before their development was halted.