Thyroid cancer cells in space during the TEXUS-53 sounding rocket mission - The THYROID Project


  • S. Kopp
  • M. Krüger
  • S. Feldmann
  • H. Oltmann
  • A. Schütte
  • B. Schmitz
  • J. Bauer
  • H. Schulz
  • K. Saar
  • N. Hübner
  • M. Wehland
  • M.Z. Nassef
  • D. Melnik
  • S. Meltendorf
  • M. Infanger
  • D. Grimm


  • Scientific Reports


  • Sci Rep 8 (1): 10355


  • Human follicular thyroid cancer cells (FTC-133) were sent to space via a sounding rocket during the TEXUS-53 mission to determine the impact of short-term microgravity on these cells. To enable cell culture and fixation in real microgravity, an automated experiment container (EC) was constructed. In order to ensure safe cell culture, cell-chambers consisting of polycarbonate (PC) material were used. They were highly biocompatible as proved by measuring cell survival using Annexin V flow cytometry. In the follow-up experiment, FTC-133 cells were sent to space via a sounding rocket and were fixed before and after the microgravity (µg) phase with RNAlater. In addition, cells were tested for reactions on hypergravity (hyper-g) as much as 18 g to determine whether worst case acceleration during launch can have an influence on the cells. We investigated genes belonging to biological processes such as cytoskeleton, cell adhesion, tumor growth, angiogenesis and apoptosis. Pathway analyses revealed central functions of VEGFA and EGF. EGF upregulates aspartate beta-hydroxylase (ASPH) which is influencing CASP3. Hyper-g induced a significant up-regulation of TUBB1, VIM, RDX, CAV1, VEGFA and BCL2. FTC-133 cells grown in an automated EC exposed to µg revealed moderate gene expression changes indicating their survival in orbit.