Scientists are about to send cancel cells to the ISS space station to kill them
Cancer is one of the most feared diseases in human history. Every year, millions of new cancer cases appear around the world, and many of them die of this fatal disease. In the persistent battle against the disease which is considered a "death sentence" for the sick, scientists around the world have been offering a lot of different treatment options. Most recently, a new study is opening hope for finding an effective way to kill cancer cells: Bringing them to a zero-gravity environment to destroy.
This is a plan proposed by two space medicine researchers at the University of Technology Sydney (Australia). The cancer cells will be placed in a device "smaller than a tissue box" and sent to the International Space Station for testing, when research on Earth showed they could be affected thoroughly in a zero-gravity environment.
This idea was born when Dr. Joshua Chou and one of his students, Anthony Kirollos, discovered that the microgravity environment in their lab at the University of Technology Sydney had a remarkable effect on isolating and destroying cancer cells.
"We experimented on four different types of cancer cells - ovarian cancer, breast cancer, nose cancer, and lung cancer. And we found that, after 24 hours under microgravity, there was up to 80 to 90% of cancer cells actually die without the need for drug influences."
From there, Dr. Chou and Kirollos hypothesized that a reduction in gravity would kill cancer cells. As gravity decreases, this affects how the cancer cells move, acting on each other and, in particular, determining their viability.
Through this new discovery, Dr. Chou hopes that the next experiments will unlock new insights for cancer treatment:
"Our hypothesis is that cancer cells will no longer be able to sense their surroundings, which makes them fall into an isolated state of apoptosis leading to self-destruction. If you've ever been on a roller coaster, you will remember the feeling when the whole body fell down in a way that it could not be mastered, which is the state we want for cancer cells to experience. The cancer cells that we sent to the space station in this experiment will be some of the cancer cells which are hardest to kill. I believe there will be many interesting results."
Earlier, the idea of cell research in space was inspired by Anthony Kirollos - a student joining the research group. Many people thought that Kirollos had a crazy idea, but it has planted the seeds of hope in Dr. Chou's mind. He shared the difficulties in experimenting to bring cancer cells to space:
"The idea of sending living cells into space is really not that simple. It's really very difficult. We are forced to limit the size and weight of what we can send there. So, a lot of technology really has to be scaled down. All the costs for this are about 200,000 USD."
If this experiment generates positive results, it will be an important milestone in the research career of Dr. Chou and Kirollos when the direction of cancer treatment of humanity will take a new step forward. While it is not feasible to send humans to space for cancer treatment because the average cost is too high, we can get closer to curing cancer by creating microgravity chambers in-ground, in case the experiment has positive results.
By: Albert Jenkins