Research

Space Promises to Treat Cancer

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Space exploration has more to offer people on Earth. Scientist have learned that research on cells in space can help us understand and treat malignant tumours on the ground.Some tumours which are aggressive on Earthare considerably less aggressive in microgravity, shows research.

By understanding the genetic and cellular processes that occur in space, scientists may be able to develop treatments that accomplish the same thing on earth.

“Research in space or under simulated microgravity helps us in many ways to understand the complex processes of life. This study is the first step toward the understanding of the mechanisms of cancergrowth inhibition in microgravity,” said Daniela Gabriele Grimm, researcher from department of biomedicine, pharmacology at Aarhus University in Aarhus, Denmark.

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“Ultimately, we hope to find new cellular targets, leading to the development of new anti-cancer drugs which might help to treat those tumours that prove to be non-responsive to the currently employed agents,” Grimmadded.

Grimm and colleagues used the Science in Microgravity Box (SIMBOX) experimental facility aboard Shenzhou-8, which was launched Oct 31, 2011.

Cell feeding was automatically performed in space on day five and automated cell fixation was conducted on day 10. Inflight control was achieved by using a centrifuge in space.

The team analysed experimental samples. Additional cells were analysed using a random positioning machine.

Results suggested that the expression of genes indicating a high malignancy in thyroid cancer cells may be down-regulated under altered gravitational stimulation.

“We are just at the beginning of a new field of medicine that studies the effects of microgravity on cell and molecular pathology,” said Gerald Weissmann, editor ofThe FASEBJournal that published the study.

“We have known that microgravity can cause some microorganisms to become more virulent and that prolonged microgravity has negative effects on the human body. Now, we learn that it’s not all bad news,” he added.

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