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Can cancer cells be neutralized by weightlessness? To experiment at the International Space Station



There are various health risks associated with space flight. Astronaut Scott Kelly, who stayed at the International Space Station (ISS) for 340 days in 2015, found that changes in gene expression, cognitive function, intestinal microbiota, etc. confirmed.

On the other hand, outer space has the potential to contribute to advances in medicine and medicine.

Verifying whether cancer cells are neutralized by weightlessness

Finally, in 2020, a mission was conducted at the International Space Station by a research team led by Dr. Joshua Chou of the Australian Institute of Technology in Australia to examine whether or not cancer cells can be neutralized by weightlessness.

Cancer can divide and proliferate indefinitely due to genetic mutations, infiltrate other tissues, or metastasize through blood vessels and lymphatic vessels. Although the mechanism is not fully elucidated, it grows to the point where cancer cells sense each other by mechanical force and together form a solid tumor, but signal to enter the body I know I will continue. Moreover, the mechanical force used when cancer cells sense the surroundings exists only in an environment with gravity.

The research team created a tissue box-sized microgravity device with a small centrifuge inside to simulate what happens when cancer is lost if gravity is lost. By putting cancer cells in a centrifuge and rotating them, you can experience the sensation of microgravity.

Using this device, four types of cancer cells, ovarian cancer, breast cancer, nasal cavity cancer, and lung cancer, were placed in a microgravity environment, and 80% to 90% of the cancer cells were neutralized. These cancers are known as types of cancer that are difficult to neutralize.

The simulation results are also revolutionary in that cancer cells are neutralized without using any drugs. Just changing the gravity could affect the ability to sense around cancer cells.

Leading to the development of new therapies utilizing the microgravity environment

Finally, the research team begins a research mission at the International Space Station. In early 2020, Dr. Chou et al. Went to space X in the United States to load sample cancer cells into the experimental module.


The experiment will be conducted for 7 days after launch, and the research team will be stationed at the launch site during the experiment to observe the data and take images of the cells. The sample cells are automatically stored frozen after the experiment period, and are scheduled to return to Earth through the shuttle 21 days later. The research team intends to analyze cancer cells after returning and examine genetic changes.

In the experiment at the International Space Station, if a result similar to the simulation can be obtained, the research team is highly expected that it will lead to the development of a new treatment method utilizing a microgravity environment.