Notre Dame sends cancer research aboard the International Space Station | News | Notre Dame News | Space

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SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket

Researchers will gather new insights about cancerous tumors using the station’s microgravity environment

University of Notre Dame researchers are taking their science to space aboard NASA’s 30th SpaceX commercial resupply services mission, which is slated to launch no earlier than Thursday (March 21).

The SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft will lift off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and travel to the International Space Station (ISS), which is in orbit roughly 250 miles above Earth’s surface. In addition to food, supplies and equipment for the ISS crew, the spacecraft will transport an experimental study from researchers in Notre Dame’s Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering.

Assistant Professor Meenal Datta, an affiliate of Notre Dame’s Harper Cancer Research Institute, is leading the study. She plans to use the unique microgravity environment found aboard the space station to gain new insights into human biology.

The self-contained experiment uses materials and methods similar to those Datta uses in her lab at Notre Dame, but the experimental procedures have been miniaturized and automated in partnership with Space Tango using its CubeLab technology.

“Researchers have been studying the body and biological processes in space since the ISS first launched,” she said. “It goes hand-in-hand with space exploration and is a key part of keeping astronauts safe and healthy. But increasingly researchers are turning their attention toward ways research in space can improve life on Earth.”

Datta’s experiment will shed light on glioblastoma, a fast-growing, aggressive and incurable form of brain cancer.

“There are all sorts of advantages to studying brain cancer in microgravity,” she explained. “When you study brain tumors on Earth, that usually means studying them in a flat layer in a dish on a benchtop. But the microgravity environment…

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