It’s known to be one of the most hostile environments known to man, but scientists believe space could provide a clue to treat cancer.
Experiments involving two new experimental cancer drugs were launched to the International Space Station (ISS) on Sunday, where researchers hope to study how they respond to microgravity.
There is growing evidence that microgravity accelerates the regeneration of cancer cells.
Inhibitors and cells contaminated with leukemia, breast cancer and colorectal cancer were launched with Axiom Space’s second private astronaut mission, Axiom Mission 2 (Ax-2).
The four-person crew tests inhibitor drugs to find out if they can reverse regeneration in diseased cells.
Two potential cancer treatments were launched into space on Sunday. Scientists hope microgravity will help reveal new treatments for the disease
Catriona Jamieson, director of the Sanford Stem Cell Institute at the University of California, San Diego, said in a statement: “Space is an accelerating environment where we can identify new therapies and new ways to target cancer more quickly, perhaps even at the pre-cancerous stage.
“We saw that cancer spread faster in space; now we want to know how we block it.’
Jamieson and his team studied how microgravity accelerates stem cell aging for a period of time, finding that weightlessness can trigger changes in the RNA-editing enzyme ADAR (Adenosine Deaminase RNA Specific).
ADAR introduces modifications that alter RNA function, potentially triggering cancer in blood stem cells.
The team found evidence that ADAR works with another enzyme called APOBEC (APOLipoprotein B mRNA-editing Enzyme, Catalytic) that can cause initial mutations in stem cells at the precancerous stage.
This project will build on the team’s research on the previous Axiom mission in 2022, which sent three-dimensional bowel cancer organoids into space inside a unique nanobioreactor.
This mission revealed that tumor stem cells can triple in size in just 10 days and activate an enzyme called adenosine deaminase associated with RNA1, or ADAR1.
The team sent the inhibitors and cells contaminated with leukemia, breast cancer and colorectal cancer to be tested in space
This enzyme allows cancer cells to clone themselves and escape the body’s immune response by becoming dormant, making them resistant to therapies that target dividing cells.
“We want to know if ADAR1 is activated as a stress response to microgravity and if it is activated in other types of cancers,” Jamieson said.
“So this time we’re going to send three types of tumor cells into space, looking at not just bowel cancer, but also leukemia and breast cancer cell organoids.”
The drugs were launched with Axiom Space’s second private astronaut mission, Axiom Mission 2 (Ax-2), which lifted off on Sunday atop a SpaceX rocket
Ax-2 launched aboard a SpaceX rocket on Sunday evening, carrying two Saudis – the country’s first astronauts in decades. The team of ticket holders was led by a retired NASA astronaut now working for Elon Musk’s company in the midst of yet another billionaire galactic space chase.
The Ax-2 mission is expected to last 10 days. Meanwhile, the team document biological changes in tumor organoids using a high-resolution fluorescence microscope to monitor cell cycle and ADAR1 activity.
This will help identify early detection biomarkers and determine if intervention with ADAR1 inhibitors prevents malignant regeneration.
“The findings will lay the groundwork for future cancer stem cell research both on Earth and for space heroes poised to travel to distant worlds,” the researchers said in the announcement.
According to Jamieson, the results of this experiment will help researchers understand whether ADAR1 is a generalizable stress response that allows cancer cells to clone themselves and whether the enzyme can be turned off with therapeutics such as federatinib or rebecsinib.
“Metastasis happens when cancer decides to invade and spread to other parts of the body,” Jamieson said.
“ADAR1 is a strong trigger to invade or metastasize, which is what we’re trying to deactivate.”
Ax-2 launched aboard a SpaceX rocket on Sunday evening, carrying two Saudis – the country’s first astronauts in decades.
The team of ticket holders was led by a retired NASA astronaut now working for Elon Musk’s company in the midst of yet another billionaire galactic space chase.
Sponsored by the Saudi government, stem cell researcher Rayyanah Barnawi has become the first woman from the kingdom to go into space.
American businessman John Shoffner, owner of a sports car racing team, was also on board.