ASU chemists send protein to space in hopes of developing cancer cure

Posted at 9:34 AM, Jul 18, 2019

TEMPE — Chemists at Arizona State University sent plates filled with a specific protein to the International Space Station in hopes of eventually developing a more effective cancer treatment.

The plates allowed the protein, known as Taspase 1, to grow inside special crystals without the force of gravity. Research shows certain cancers, including glioblastoma and leukemia, use Taspase 1 to rapidly multiply.

"Once we understand the structure of Taspase 1, what it looks like, we can then design small molecule drugs to bind to Taspase 1 and inhibit its function," said Rebecca Jernigan, a senior at ASU who is part of the research team led by associate research scientist Dr. Jose Martin-Garcia.

The plates were sent up on the SpaceX CRS-17 mission in May and spent thirty days on the ISS before being returned to Earth.

"Right now we're in the process of collecting all the data and looking at all the images and seeing what we got back from space," Jernigan said.

The team is hoping to publish their first results next year.

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