New York, May 23
American private space habitat company Axiom Space’s latest mission to the International Space Station (ISS) also carried several experiments on human stem cell ageing, inflammation and cancer to the low Earth orbit lab.
Increasing evidence shows that microgravity conditions can accelerate ageing, inflammation and immune dysfunction in human stem cells.
Understanding this process is not only helpful for keeping astronauts healthy — it could also teach us how to better treat cancer on Earth.
The Axiom Mission 2 (Ax-2) lifted off at 5:37 p.m. EDT on Sunday (3:07a-am Monday IST) on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with a multinational crew including the first woman from Saudi Arabia.
The Ax-2 mission will now determine if two inhibitory drugs can reverse the regeneration in an organoid model of breast cancer.
Another line of experiments will track the health of astronauts’ blood stem cells before, during and after spaceflight to evaluate the effects of the space environment on stem cell ageing, immune function and cancer stem cell generation.
These projects are part of the NASA-funded Integrated Space Stem Cell Orbital Research (ISSCOR) Center, a collaboration between University of California-San Diego Sanford Stem Cell Institute, JM Foundation and Axiom Space.
The experiments will take place over 10 days in orbit, with subsequent data collection and analysis performed at UC San Diego.
“Space is a uniquely stressful environment,” said Catriona Jamieson, Professor at UC San Diego School of Medicine.
“By conducting these experiments in low Earth orbit, we are able to understand mechanisms of cancer evolution in a compressed time frame and inform the development of new cancer stem cell inhibitory strategies,” Jamieson added.
The findings will inform the development of predictive models for cancer and immune dysfunction-related diseases and could lead to the development of new drugs to prevent or treat these conditions during space exploration and here on Earth.
“We are pleased to have the opportunity with our private astronaut missions to advance this important work, aligned with the White House Cancer Moonshot initiatives,” said Christian Maender, executive vice president of in-space solutions at Axiom Space.
“Our mission is to improve life on Earth and foster the possibilities beyond by building and operating the world’s first commercial space station,” she added.
Axiom Space astronauts are expected to depart the space station May 30, pending weather, for a return to Earth and splashdown at a landing site off the coast of Florida.