More About CELLS

The Controlled Environment Laboratory for Life Sciences (CELLS) Research Group was established in 2010 by Principal Investigator Michelle McKeon-Bennett within Limerick Institute of Technology. It’s establishment stems from a relationship developed by the Principal Investigator in 2002 with the Space Life Science Laboratory at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida. From this relationship, six LIT graduates from the Department of Applied Science, were trained in the field of Advanced Life Support Systems and Hydroponics at the Space Life Science Laboratory and have returned to CELLS to undertake postgraduate research programmes.

CELLS aims to utilise the skills the graduates developed to establish a Centre of Excellence for the enhancement of bioactive compounds in plants using controlled environments, with outcome pertinent to both terrestrial and extraterrestrial applications.

The group focuses primarily on the generation of high-end bioactive molecules from plant sources through forced adaptation under controlled environmental conditions with applications to nutraceutical and functional food industries, and herbal supplement development. However, research within the group also makes use of hydroponic techniques, originating from previous space research, for investigation into areas such as agricultural crop growth, bio-fuel enhancement, and bioflavonoid enhancement, all through non-genetic manipulation, for added nutraceutical value in every day salad crops.

CELLS utilises four custom-built environmental growth chambers that allow for tightly controlled environmental growth conditions for the plant-based studies, with funding for these chambers being provided by Enterprise Ireland. The CELLS Research Group has recently secured funding under the Marie Curie FP7 fund to allow the relocation of Dr. Gary W. Stutte, of Kennedy Space Center, to join CELLS as a Senior Research Fellow from September, 2011. The postgraduates are funded by IRCSET (Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology), Dynamac Corporation, and Limerick Institute of Technology Graduate Research Office (GRO) Seed Funding.