Four teams of postgraduate students flew their experiments during the 2009 'Fly Your Thesis!' campaign. Here is an introduction to the Spanish team.
ABC transporters in microgravity
|University||Polytechnic University of Catalonia and Autonomous University of Barcelona|
Felip Fenollosa Artés
Fundació CIM, Polytechnic University of Catalonia
|ELGRA mentor||Dieter Volkmann|
Sergi Vaquer Araujo
Elisabet Cuyás Navarro
Arnau Rabadán Barea
A team comprising two students from the Autonomous University of Barcelona and two from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia developed an experiment to investigate the behaviour of certain biological agents involved in the assimilation of drugs by the human body. The results could help to improve medical treatments in space.
ABC transporters are enzymes present in all cells of the human body. Their main function is to remove toxic waste and drugs from the body. Unfortunately, this means that they have a negative impact on current drug treatments, especially in cancer cells, where they are a major cause of resistance to tumour therapy.
Based upon current knowledge, biochemical reactions involving enzymes are thought to happen without being influenced by gravity. Nevertheless, some recent studies suggest that gravity might play a bigger-than-expected role in influencing biochemical pathways. Any enhancement or reduction of drug activation in microgravity may result in the appearance of side effects or loss of efficacy when treating astronauts in space.
The aim of this project was to develop technology that could make it possible to study drug behaviour in space without performing direct testing on humans. It involved a study of the activity of an ABC transporter model, known as MRP2, in microgravity conditions. Its performance will then be compared with similar control experiments back on Earth to ascertain whether its function is altered by microgravity.
The experiment worked well during the parabolic flight campaign and provided the student team with a large amount of samples to be analysed. Data can then be compared with similar control experiments back on Earth to ascertain whether its function is altered by microgravity.
Results from this research may lead to a better understanding of the ABC transporters themselves, and their role in space and terrestrial pharmacology. By providing new information and introducing new research methods involving microgravity, it may eventually help to improve treatments for cancer patients and foster research into drugs that are suitable for use on future Moon and Mars missions.
Read more about this experiment on the ERASMUS Experiment Archive.