Do cancer cells slow down in space?

Let’s backtrack a bit – Could the cure for cancer be somewhere not in the same atmosphere as us? Is it possible to believe that the answer to this mystery we’ve been trying to solve for over a decade now, is out there in space somewhere? A few years ago, there were multiple studies on how cancer could be prevented by researching cell growth while in space. So let us go back in time and talk about how this could be possible.

Let’s start at the basics. We all have a billion cells in our body. We get new ones and lose old ones every single day of our lives. These cells carry out tasks to keep us humans healthy.

Normal cells reproduce correctly, and die when needed as well. This is needed to maintain the perfect number that we need.

Cells also carry out bodily functions that are needed. For example, they all have a nucleus, or the control center if you will. Inside is the DNA, which contains genes, which are coded messages. These little signals and signs tell a cell what to do and what type of cell to be. You get the gist.

When the cells stop doing what they’re supposed to and get thrown off their normal schedule, that’s when things get bad. Sometimes a cell can be mutated and the cell no longer understands that it’s supposed to reproduce properly, and self-destruct. Soon enough, cells start to build up and aren’t being killed off so they just don’t know when to stop. They stop communicating with each other and begin to spread through the body after losing their ability to bond to neighbor cells.

Eventually, these cells begin to build up and become a tumour – which is where the cancer starts.

Just to put things into perspective, here is a picture comparison of a normal cell vs one that has cancer. As you can see, the cancer one is a bit mutated.

Cancer cell vs normal cell

Now that we’re off to a start, let’s get to the good stuff. How does a cancer cell differ in space?

Well first off, studying cells on Earth causes a bit of a problem to scientists and cancer researchers everywhere. In the body, like the picture featured before, normal cells are round. However, in a lab, cells tend to grow flat. This is because they spread out onto sheets so that we can look at them under microscopes. That fact alone causes some problems because it prevents us from seeing how cells react and change in the human body. They’re not round and we just simply can’t get them to be.

Although researchers have found multiple ways to mimic that of normal cellular life, nothing quite compares to how cells are in the body.

This brings up the topic of vitro cells. Vitro cells are cells that do not live inside a living organism and they tend to float around in space. Even so, they still manage to sort themselves out and create three-dimensional groupings. These specific groupings resemble how cells work in the body more than they do while we look at them under a microscope or in a laboratory.

Cells in microgravity just simply clump together with no effort, and even have reduced fluid shear stress. That being said, these facts can help scientists study cell behavior and how they change into not only cancer cells, but other diseases as well. .

The Cellular Biotechnology Operations Support System investigation, along with Jeanne Becker, cell biologist at Nano3D Biosciences in Houston and principal investigator for the CBOSS-1 ovarian study, have conducted experiments and investigations regarding cancer cell development in space. One certain result was that microgravity had a significant effect on cells. Specifically on the secretion of cytokines. These guys are small proteins that are released by cells and send signals or signs to other ones. No gravity slows down down the process of the these cytokines giving off messages, which in turn is beneficial since cancer spreads.

Vitro cells //

Cells that are placed into three-dimensional microgravity structures don’t contain blood vessels that provide oxygen and nutrients. This means that cells at the center of a cluster will begin to die. Similar to tumors that are cancerous, which have dead tissue areas near the center. This coincides with a slow rate of cancer growth.

More experiments have taken place and involved taking several astronauts, two Space Tissue Loss experiments, and sixteen mice to the International Space Station for testing. One was to test the immune systems in mice and how they were affected while up in space, along with their embryonic stem cells. The last one was how the immune systems of humans worked in microgravity.

These studies can be the answer we’ve all needed to find a cure to this life-changing illness. If the loss of gravity can slow down the growth rate of cancerous cells, or those that have been infected by any disease, then researchers definitely have an advantage here. Although some of these investigations are a few years old, I think we can all agree that someone needs to get back to making these experiments happen in new perspectives.

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Amber Karpaty
Amber Karpaty 215 posts

You may or may not have seen me dancing around on our YouTube channel. I really love psychology and dissecting shows/film. Also your token anime nerd.