Markus Wehland

Fighting Thyroid Cancer with Microgravity Research

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperReviewResearchpeer-review


  • Marcus Krüger, Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg
  • ,
  • Daniela Melnik, Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg
  • ,
  • Sascha Kopp, Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg
  • ,
  • Christoph Buken, Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg
  • ,
  • Jayashree Sahana
  • Johann Bauer, Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, Martinsried, Am Klopferspitz 18, 82152 Planegg, Germany.
  • ,
  • Markus Wehland
  • Ruth Hemmersbach, Institute of Aerospace Medicine, Gravitational Biology, German Aerospace Center (DLR), Linder Höhe, 51147 Cologne, Germany.
  • ,
  • Thomas J Corydon
  • Manfred Infanger, Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg
  • ,
  • Daniela Grimm

Microgravity in space or simulated by special ground-based devices provides an unusual but unique environment to study and influence tumour cell processes. By investigating thyroid cancer cells in microgravity for nearly 20 years, researchers got insights into tumour biology that had not been possible under normal laboratory conditions: adherently growing cancer cells detach from their surface and form three-dimensional structures. The cells included in these multicellular spheroids (MCS) were not only altered but behave also differently to those grown in flat sheets in normal gravity, more closely mimicking the conditions in the human body. Therefore, MCS became an invaluable model for studying metastasis and developing new cancer treatment strategies via drug targeting. Microgravity intervenes deeply in processes such as apoptosis and in structural changes involving the cytoskeleton and the extracellular matrix, which influence cell growth. Most interestingly, follicular thyroid cancer cells grown under microgravity conditions were shifted towards a less-malignant phenotype. Results from microgravity research can be used to rethink conventional cancer research and may help to pinpoint the cellular changes that cause cancer. This in turn could lead to novel therapies that will enhance the quality of life for patients or potentially develop new preventive countermeasures.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2553
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 2 May 2019

    Research areas

  • Aggressiveness, Cytokines, Metastasis, Signal transduction, Spheroids, Target, Three-dimensional growth

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