Space shuttles carries Kentucky cancer experiment

Kentucky scientists will soon be analyzing cells that flew to space aboard the second-to-last U.S. space shuttle flight as part of their effort to determine whether the growth of brain tumors can be slowed.

The space shuttle Endeavour, which lifted off Monday morning, is carrying a biomedical experiment that will investigate whether the combined effects of microgravity and ionizing radiation increase or decrease the survival rate of cancer cells affected by glioblastoma multiforme, said Kris Kimel of Kentucky Space, an independent company started by the Kentucky Science and Technology Corp. in 2007.

Glioblastoma is the most common and aggressive type of primary brain tumor.

It is present in 52 percent of all primary brain tumor cases and 20 percent of all intracranial tumors. Scientists hope that understanding how the cells react in a low-gravity environment could lead to a better understanding of how to treat such a cancer.

Analysis of the experiment — called GlioLab — will be conducted at Morehead State University. The overall experiment is a joint project of Kentucky Space and the Exomedicine Institute, another corporation created by KCTC.

GlioLab members include faculty members at Morehead, two Ph.D. students at the University of Rome now working at Morehead, Morehead students and employees from Kentucky Space.

Kimel said that after the experiment returns to Earth and analysis is done, some preliminary results probably will be available within a month.

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