Applications

SpacePharma has already performed experiments in various fileds of science in Space, that have already delivered benefits. Read more about them below.

Examples of proven applications

Protein

Protein crystallization - Monoclonal antibodies

Monoclonal antibodies can be crystallized in space to yield large, pure, uniform, high quality crystals.

This can assist in resolving the full molecular structure for better characterization of new drug candidates and drug-target interactions. For example some of the proteins involved in neuro-degenerative disease crystallize on Earth, but not in enough quality and uniformity to determine their structures.

Space investigations could lead to improved drug stability and storage of monocular antibodies.

Cells

Stem cells

Microgravity research has the potential to advance stem cell therapies by identifying novel models of cell proliferation and differentiation. Under microgravity conditions, various types of stem cells have shown distinct responses.

Gene expression analyses evaluating the effects of microgravity on human cells demonstrated that microgravity alters expression of the genes involved in cell adhesion, regulation of proliferation and differentiation and various signaling pathways.

Stem cells exposed to microgravity conditions kept their “stem-ness” properties and showed higher self-renewal ability. Thus, microgravity offers a unique environment to study and control stem cells in order to achieve better quality of cells for therapies.

Bacterial growth

Microbiology

Antimicrobial resistance in an escalating problem, one of the biggest threats to global health, rising to a dangerously high level, yearly costing many lives and billions of dollars in medical care. Without a significant action mankind can find itself in a post-antibiotic era, where common infections and minor injuries can cause death. Today, research focusing on this problem, can not win the race against the development of bacterial resistance to antibiotics.

Bacterial growth is accelerated and bacteria become more drug resistant in microgravity. These grown in microgravity conditions also present enhanced formation of biofilms, which are responsible for a number of deadly diseases. Microgravity is a unique environment that enables the study of bacterial virulence mechanisms. It has a great potential to allow discovery of new factors which can ultimately lead to the development of new drugs and vaccines.

Telomeres

Aging

Investigational models of aging are complicated by the slow rate of aging processes. The long study duration the development of new therapies and increase their cost.

Microgravity has been shown to provide accelerated models for aging and disease for many body systems, including bone, muscle, the immune system and even the brain. Shortening study duration from years to weeks or months can accelerate the development of drugs and diagnostic biomarkers addressing a variety of unmet needs, from osteoporosis to degenerative diseases.

3d illustration of T cells or cancer cells

Cancer and other diseases

The success rate of new therapies translating from in vitro culture systems into the clinic is very low. Among the reasons for the limited ability of cultured cells to serve as models for solid human tissues is their tendency to grow in 2-dimensional (2D) structures, driven by gravity.

Studies utilizing organ-on-chip technologies demonstrated that in microgravity cells can spontaneously assemble into 3D structures. Such structures are more representative of the in vivo properties of human tissues as compared to the structures formed on Earth. Particularly, 3D tumors formed in microgravity can achieve larger dimensions than on Earth, thereby better mimicking the heterogeneity in oxygen and nutrient supply that is observed in the clinic. Thus, 3D cell cultures in microgravity have great potential for narrowing the current gap in drug development and allowing a more reliable model for drug penetration, efficacy and toxicity testing.

Cells

Fluid physics

As opposed to solids and gasses whose physical behavior can be predicted rather accurately by theory, fluids remain a very complex state of matter to describe quantitatively. On ground, buoyancy driven convection is the most dominant driving force for heat and mass transfer. On the other hand, in microgravity buoyancy is greatly reduced, allowing for other phenomena, such as the Marangoni convection, to be much more prominent.

Microgravity environment is ideal for measuring physical properties of fluids and developing new insights about their behavior. These can then be applied for designing better heat pipes, improving manufacturing from melts and optimizing industrial chemical processes.