To boldly go where no lab has gone before: mini lab set to be blasted into space on cancer research mission
A consortium of Polish companies and academic institution is building a bio-nanosatellite to conduct research on cancer cells in space.
The tiny CubeSat Bio-nanosatellite, measuring approximately 10x10x30 centimetres, will be equipped with a miniature chip laboratory (so-called lab-on-chip). The device, apart from its small size and weight, has to be strong so it is possible to conduct automated biomedical experiments on board.
Professor Jan Dziuban from Wrocław University of Technology told PAP: "Research has shown that cells respond to administered substances several dozen times stronger in space than on Earth. So it’s better to send a set of several potential drugs into the orbit, study them in space on cancerous tissue to determine which is one is best, while obtaining results in just a few days. Even if it costs more, it is more profitable than waiting for long-term test results.”
The research carried out on the satellite will help determine how to control the development of soil-forming fungi in low gravity. They will also make it possible to check how the immune system cells - T lymphocytes - behave in such conditions and how the growth of cancer cells exposed to drugs under microgravity conditions changes. The initiators’ hope is to find new treatments for cancer with drugs or antibiotics.
Polish technology forms the base of the entire project. The micro-chip laboratories, based on previous experience in this field, will be developed by Wrocław University of Technology. The Polish Academy of Science’s Institute of Immunology and Experimental Therapy, Wrocław Medical University and the University of Environmental and Life Sciences will design and carry out biological and biomedical experiments.
All the testing will be conducted in parallel in microgravity conditions and – to compare results - on Earth. Wrocław-based SatRevolution, which is also involved in sending a satellite to Mars, is responsible for building the device.
The satellite will be launched into space in 18 months, after which the experiments in space will begin.