Space adds new dimension to cancer research

Culturing cells in the reduced gravity conditions of the International Space Station could help refine cancer treatment regimes.

Simon Frantz(

When the space shuttle Discovery blasts off to the International Space Station (ISS) later today (launch scheduled Friday August 10, 2001 - 5.39 pm EDT), it will be taking with it a frozen clump of ovarian cancer cells. On the station, mission specialists will thaw them and grow them into a three-dimensional cluster that resembles the type of tumour one sees in the body, rather than into the abnormal shape on the flat bottom of a laboratory culture dish.

The researchers from the University of South Florida College of Medicine and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) hope their culture will provide a biologically more accurate model for studies of ovarian cancer development and its responsiveness to chemotherapy and antihormonal agents.

Such a three dimensional cluster can only be grown when the cells are in free fall and so subjected to a lower apparent gravitational pull (microgravity) than when...

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