Aarhus professor currently testing thyroid cancer cells in weightless conditions in Chinese spacecraft.
Live human cancer cells are out in space right now – more specifically in the Chinese Shenzhou 8 capsule, which was launched from Inner Mongolia on 1 November.
The cells’ journey into space is part of a research project headed by Denmark’s only professor of space medicine – German-born Daniela Grimm, Aarhus University. The aim is to find out how cancer cells – in this case from a patient with a highly aggressive form of thyroid cancer – behave in a state of weightlessness.
The Aarhus professor has previously worked with simulated weightlessness on Earth, and she has shown a 30% increase in cell death in thyroid cancer samples. In experiments with other cells, she has tested the effect of simulated weightlessness on board aircraft.
According to the plan, the samples should return to Earth on 18 November, and Professor Grimm will study the impact on the cancer cells of ten days of real weightlessness in space – a research project that, when all comes to all, could contribute to new opportunities for treating cancer.
This research project is just one of seventeen biological and medical experiments taking place right now on the Shenzhou 8 spacecraft.