A special incubator designed to grow tissue samples in space is being applied on Earth in a quest to understand how breast cancer works - and how it might be controlled.
Scientists are using NASA Bioreactors to culture breast cells on Earth to learn what controls the growth of both healthy and malignant breast tissues. Their findings could affect health care for women not only on Earth, but on missions to Mars.
"We are culturing noncancerous mammary cells hoping to learn what guides their growth, and how we might use that knowledge to thwart malignancies before they are created. The type of mammary cells we are growing comes from an individual susceptible to breast cancer, and that susceptibility is likely driven by damage caused by ionizing radiation. Space exploration will involve slightly increased exposures of crew members to radiation, so what we learn from these cells could help help justify methods of female crew selection, and help manage breast cancer in the national population at the same time."
Cancer research is typically a collaborative and interdisciplinary effort. In this regard, Richmond was connected to a breast cancer susceptible donor of the mammary tissue now used in his laboratory by Dr. Mike Swift of the Medical College of New York, Hawthorne, N.Y. Drs. Olive Pettengill (Pathology Department of the Dartmouth Medical School) and Dr. Martha Stampfer (Lawrence-Berkeley Laboratory) helped him to obtain cells from this cancer susceptible breast tissue.
Within NASA, Richmond also interacts with Dr. Jeanne Becker, an associate professor at the University of South Florida College of Medicine in Tampa, and with investigators in the Biotechnology Cell Science Program at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.
For many people, culturing cells means putting some small number into nutrient media in a dish or a tube and letting them grow. However, this kind of approach does not pr
Contact: john horack
NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center--Space Sciences Laboratory