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Healthcare Innovation: Why is Dr Chou sending cancer cells into space?

Crazy Might Work’s Adj Assoc. Prof. Steven Bernardi spoke with Dr Joshua Chou from the University of Technology Sydney about his incredible healthcare innovation, and why he is sending cancer cells to the International Space Station. Dr Chou revealed that his “research is in the area of cell mechanobiology, understanding how cells in your body perceive gravity and mechanical forces. Cancers are very susceptible and sensitive to their environment, that’s why they are able to form tumours, because a lot of cancer cells come together.”

How on earth did Dr Chou discover this innovation in healthcare?

“My idea was, if the cancer cell loses the ability to sense their surroundings, then how can they form tumours in the first place? So, to be able to do that, I created a micro-gravity device to simulate the zero-g environment of space, to do this type of test.”

What happened when cancer cells were tested in zero gravity?

“What we found was that in four different types of cancer, they all die within 24 hours in this micro-gravity environment. So, this reinforced our original hypothesis, that these cancers share something in common, in that their ability to sense their environment.”

Is this healthcare innovation a silver bullet for cancer?

“I wouldn’t say it will be a golden bullet, but I do think that it can work in conjunction with current therapies and treatment. Either improving the efficiency or efficacy of current drugs or treatment strategies.”

When will the first cancer cells launch into space?

“We are planning Australia’s first research mission to the International Space Station, sometime in the first or second quarter of next year.”

Why are cancer cells like ninjas?

Whilst doing research at Harvard, Dr Chou looked into “how cancer cells invade your body’s immune system. They’re able to do that by acting like ninjas, concealing themselves to look like, and feel like other types of cells in your body…your immune cells recognise them as your normal, healthy cell. That’s how they invade, undetected by your immune system, survive and thrive. So, what we’re trying to do is to unveil this camouflage or this ninja side to cancer cells, so that we can better screen them and treat them.”

Australia’s 1st Space Biology Symposium is coming!

This month Dr Chou will be hosting this innovative symposium at UTS, he says “the purpose is really to bring together not only the research institutes across Australia but also the government agency and industry partners in Australia, to see what everyone’s doing in their separate field, so that we can bring together this new and emerging field of Space Biology.”

Did somebody say cross-industry collaboration?

Crazy Might Work is very excited to be involved in Australia’s 1st Space Biology Symposium, and what promises to be a very powerful cross-industry collaboration. Participation has been diverse, ranging from banking, venture capital, and investment funds…to biologists, engineers, aeronautics and other space related industries…it’s certain to be disruptive!

Watch this space (crazy pun intended), for more exciting innovative disruptions on how space biology is being harnessed in ways that can transform the future of medicine.