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The cellbox-2 mission to the international space station: Thyroid cancer cells in space

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  • Daniela Melnik, Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg
  • ,
  • Marcus Krüger, Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg
  • ,
  • Herbert Schulz, Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg
  • ,
  • Sascha Kopp, Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg
  • ,
  • Markus Wehland
  • Johann Bauer, SiHaTho GmbH
  • ,
  • Bjorn Baselet, Belgian Nuclear Research Center
  • ,
  • Randy Vermeesen, Belgian Nuclear Research Center
  • ,
  • Sarah Baatout, Belgian Nuclear Research Center, Ghent University
  • ,
  • Thomas J. Corydon
  • Manfred Infanger, Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg
  • ,
  • Daniela Grimm

A spaceflight to the International Space Station (ISS) is a dream of many researchers. We had the chance to investigate the effect of real microgravity (CellBox-2 Space mission) on the transcriptome and proteome of FTC-133 human follicular thyroid cancer cells (TCC). The cells had been sent to the ISS by a Falcon 9 rocket of SpaceX CRS-13 from Cape Canaveral (United States) and cultured in six automated hardware units on the ISS before they were fixed and returned to Earth. Multicellular spheroids (MCS) were detectable in all spaceflight hardware units. The VCL, PXN, ITGB1, RELA, ERK1 and ERK2 mRNA levels were significantly downregulated after 5 days in space in adherently growing cells (AD) and MCS compared with ground controls (1g), whereas the MIK67 and SRC mRNA levels were both suppressed in MCS. By contrast, the ICAM1, COL1A1 and IL6 mRNA levels were significantly upregulated in AD cells compared with 1g and MCS. The protein secretion measured by multianalyte profiling technology and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (AngiogenesisMAP®, extracellular matrix proteins) was not significantly altered, with the exception of elevated angiopoietin 2. TCC in space formed MCS, and the response to microgravity was mainly anti-proliferative. We identified ERK/RELA as a major microgravity regulatory pathway.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8777
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 2 Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by Deutsches Zentrum f?r Luft-und Raumfahrt (DLR), grant numbers 50WB1524 and 50WB1924. This work is financially supported by the ESA/BELSPO/ ProdexIMPULSE contract (CO-90-11-2801-03, for Belgium).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

    Research areas

  • Cell signalling, Cytokines, Extracellular matrix, Focal adhesion, Growth, Growth factors, International Space Station, Spaceflight, Spheroids, Thyroid cancer

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