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Moffitt Cancer Center sends experiment to the International Space Station

Moffitt Cancer Center sends experiment to the International Space Station
Posted at 10:20 PM, May 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-13 05:45:18-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Research scientists at Moffitt Cancer Center are analyzing data after sending an experiment to the International Space Station.

Axiom Mission 1 launched from Kennedy Space Center on April 8. It returned late last month.

Moffitt created a laboratory that was the size of a shoebox. They sent the experiment to space. It contained two batches of human cells, one of which lacked a particular gene.

Patricia McDonald, an associate member of the Cancer Physiology Department at Moffitt Cancer Center, is studying stress and DNA damage caused by space travel.

McDonald said they are studying if silencing a particular gene can protect against DNA damage.

"The beta-arrestin gene that we talked about has a role in DNA damage, but not necessarily a positive role so when we silence that gene, we actually see a more efficient cells, efficiency to repair DNA breaks improves," McDonald said.

Astronauts are exposed to numerous stressors including microgravity, ionizing radiation and physical stress. McDonald said everyone is exposed to different stressors on earth. Stress may lead to DNA damage and increase the risk for diseases like cancer.

"There's lots of stress factors here on earth," she said. "Our cells are bombarded by different stresses every day and the body has an ability to respond to those stresses. The stresses can cause DNA damage, but the cell can fix tha DNA damage. In some diseases, cancer for instance, that process, the ability to be able to repair those DNA breaks has gone awry."

McDonald said they will analyze the human cells which are kept in a freezer. Their long-term goal is to develop a drug that can prevent DNA damage.

"How excited we were and honored to have our experiment on this historic flight because it is the first commercial flight to the ISS," McDonald said.

The experiment was funded by Space Florida through grants. McDonald said they expect to have full results in the next few weeks.