HomeScience & TechHow NASA-Funded Space Radiation Research Fights Cancer on Earth

How NASA-Funded Space Radiation Research Fights Cancer on Earth

How NASA-Funded Space Radiation Research Fights Cancer on Earth? When astronauts spend six months in space, they receive the equivalent of 1,000 chest X-rays worth of radiation. They are in danger of cancer, damage to the central nervous system, bone loss, and some forms of cardiovascular disease because of the numerous types of radiation constantly being blasted into their bodies. However, NASA supported exploration into a novel approach to quantifying human exposure to radiation risk. Income MSI Dx Analysis System is a diagnostic test that uses the same basic technology that has been around for 20 years to help better cancer therapy on Earth.

Dosimeters quantify how much radiation an individual is exposed to and are worn by astronauts in space. However, dosimeters cannot quantify this radiation’s biological effects, as Honglu Wu claimed. Wu is an expert in biodosimetry, the measurement of physiological, chemical, and physical changes due to radiation exposure, and a senior scientist at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir proves that having fun in space is possible. However, astronauts’ bodies are put under a lot of stress without adequate protection from the harmful effects of space radiation. Findings from radiation research performed for NASA are now assisting physicians in individualizing cancer treatment. Credits: NASA

Long-term space missions to the Moon and Mars pose unique concerns since “the radiation kind is different in space from what people are exposed to on Earth,” he explained. Biodosimetry data or reliable biomarkers for risk assessment are what we’re after.

The presence or absence of a biomarker in the body can provide insight into the health of a particular organ or system. Scientists can detect shifts by comparing DNA samples taken from an astronaut before and after their trip into space. That’s helpful, but it’s not enough to make firm conclusions.

In the case of cancer, for example, it is often too late by the time the telltale signs of the disease have been uncovered. “We want to be able to detect the risk early so that we can take certain countermeasure activities sooner or limit flight time,” said Wu.

An Alternative Satellite

The prospect that microsatellites, discrete regions of DNA, might reliably record radiation damage over time was investigated in a 2002 study supported by NASA’s Office of Biological and Physical Research.

Doctors can better decide on a course of treatment for cancer patients if they know the tumour’s nature. The Promega OncoMate MSI Dx Analysis System looks for DNA mutations like those depicted in this diagram using data from studies funded by NASA. Credits: Promega Corporation.

Some microsatellites have the potential to mutate and cause disease, while others can undergo the same process without causing any ill effects in the host. Those in the second category are especially vulnerable to radiation injury. Because of this, they should be checked first, says Jeff Bacher, a senior scientist at Promega Corporation in Fitchburg, Wisconsin.

He oversaw the Brookhaven National Laboratory experiment funded by NASA, and involved irradiating human cells and animals at specific intensities. This study aimed to determine how to use microsatellites as a marker or indicator for measuring individual radiation exposure. Bacher questioned whether or not our samples’ levels of damage were proportional to the doses of radiation to which they were subjected.

This practice of using microsatellites as diagnostic markers has a long history. Forensic testing and even kinship analysis, like paternity testing, make greater use of them. Researchers discovered microsatellites that might be used to screen cancer tumours early on, leading to the developing of a product for use in clinical trials. This is; How NASA-Funded Space Radiation Research Fights Cancer on Earth.

As part of the NASA investigation, scientists saw the need for more sensitive markers and settled on specific clusters of long mononucleotide repeats (LMRs), a microsatellite form.

This study demonstrated that the frequency of mutations in these regions of DNA increased with increasing radiation doses.

The LMRs were utilized to develop the OncoMate test, which received FDA clearance partly because of NASA’s efforts.

Genetic Needle Search

Finding evidence of molecular damage in the human genome can be like finding a needle in a haystack. But by seeking a well-characterized biomarker, one may home in on a specific, actionable indicator of a potential problem. Because cancer is a molecular illness, knowing what mutations are present in a tumour is essential for selecting effective therapies.

As a result of the NASA investigation, the research group devised a technique to count the microsatellite mutations that occur during the process of DNA replication, which occurs during cell division. High microsatellite instability (MSI) levels in cancer cells may indicate a genetic flaw related to Lynch syndrome or another disorder. One of the first steps in diagnosing is locating the genetic cause.

Lynch syndrome is a genetic predisposition that raises one’s chances of developing several types of cancer, including colon, endometrium, stomach, and ovaries. Bacher estimates that 1 in 279 persons have Lynch syndrome. However, most of those affected are ignorant that they have it. Income MSI, a test for identifying MSI status in colorectal cancer tumours, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2021. This screening can help decide if further testing for Lynch syndrome is required, which could help catch and treat some of the most treatable cancer.

Annette Burkhouse, Promega’s medical affairs officer, said, “The work Dr Bacher undertook with NASA funding is now helping improve the manner in which we can detect MSI malignancies.” Increased detection will aid doctors and patients in making informed care decisions. This is where the most significant influence can be felt.

Medical professionals can select effective treatments against a patient’s tumour by analyzing cancer cells’ molecular makeup. The MSI test, created by Promega, is an example of a tool used in scientific investigations. New immunotherapy medications were discovered effective against MSI-high tumours in a 2015 trial conducted at the Johns Hopkins Cancer Center. The FDA and the firm are working together to broaden OncoMate’s applicability as a companion diagnostic. According to Burkhouse, OncoMate will be utilized once a cancer type has been identified to see how well it reacts to immune-oncology treatments.

Income is being used in various contexts in other countries. MSI-high tumours are routinely diagnosed in Europe with this test. To further investigate this test’s utility, Promega supports nine more research across the globe.

Bunkhouse says that the continued funding of NASA’s scientific programmes is a critical factor in the success of the agency’s efforts to produce new findings.

He explained that NASA-funded research efforts with Promega often result in “unexpected results.”

Space agency NASA has a lengthy history of licencing its inventions to the business world. NASA’s Spinoff magazine highlights the agency’s technologies that have been commercialized, illuminating the more significant returns on the nation’s investment in the space programme. The spinoff is an official magazine of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate’s Technology Transfer programme (STMD).

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