NASA funds space research to fight cancer on Earth


Promega Corp.

As astronauts explore space, they are exposed to extremely high levels of radiation that puts them at risk for many conditions such as cancer, bone loss, central nervous system damage and more. As a result, 20 years ago, NASA funded research to find a new, more efficient way to measure the effects of radiation on people. Now, this research is being used in a new cancer treatment being developed here on Earth.

In 2002, NASA’s Office of Biological and Physical Research funded research to investigate whether specific pieces of DNA, called microscopic cells, could record radiation damage in time or not.

The results showed that some microscopic cells were more susceptible to radiation. They accumulate radiation damage and can therefore be used as an accurate indicator of an individual’s exposure over time, according to NASA.

“The goal was to develop a method of personalized radiation exposure measurement using microscopic cells,” said Jeff Bacher, senior scientist at Promega Corporation, who led the research. tissue as an indicator or tracer”. “Is there a one-to-one relationship between the radiation exposure our sample received and detectable damage?”

While using microglial cells as biomarkers in testing is not a new concept, the study suggests that these microscopic cells could be used to screen for cancerous tumors.

In a search for even more sensitive indicators, the team found that a microscopic cell type, several groups of long mononucleotide repeats (LMRs), would be an ideal indicator because of the frequency The number of mutations in these parts of DNA increases with radiation exposure. .

It was this discovery that led to the development of the OncoMate test approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

OncoMate is used as a preliminary test to screen for and diagnose Lynch syndrome. Lynch syndrome is a gene mutation that affects 1 in 279 people and increases the risk of several types of cancer including colon, stomach, and ovarian. According to NASA, OncoMate can track and find some forms of treatable cancer.

“With that improved detection, we can help doctors and patients make better decisions about treatment options,” said Annette Burkhouse, Promega’s chief medical officer. where the impact is widest.”

To find more beneficial uses for testing, Promega is supporting nine more studies globally.


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