“Our goal is to find new targets to treat cancer”

Prof. Daniela-Gabriele Grimm is a globally leading scientist in the field of Microgravity and Translational Regenerative Medicine (MTRM) and Head of the Department of MTRM at the Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg (OVGU). In this interview, she talks about her research in real and simulated microgravity, parabolic flights and studying human cells on the ISS to find new approaches to cancer treatment.

Portrait: Prof. Daniela-Gabriele Grimm

Prof. Grimm, what is your research about?

My team and I focus on Space Medicine, Gravitational Biology, Tissue Engineering, as well as Cancer Research and Bioinformatics in Space and on Earth. This area of research gives us the opportunity to perform science in space or space-like conditions, in particular to participate in and conduct experiments on space missions, such as studying human cells on the ISS. We also participate in sounding rocket missions or parabolic flight campaigns. By exposing cells to microgravity, we are able to trigger processes that would not normally occur under standard conditions on Earth. By analysing these changes at the molecular level, we hope to find new targets for cancer therapy, gain new insights into how cells sense gravity, and investigate the transition from 2D to 3D growth.

We carry out our research not only under real microgravity conditions, but also under simulated conditions here on Earth. A good example of this is the work of our Mexican PhD student José Luis Cortés-Sánchez, who is studying cancer cells in simulated microgravity to discover new cancer cell vulnerabilities. (click here to watch the video)

Your team will participate in the 41st DLR Parabolic Flight Campaign in September this year. What are you hoping to find there?

We will study low differentiated follicular thyroid cancer cells under short-term microgravity and hypergravity during the 41st parabolic flight manoeuvre. We will focus on gene expression changes that occur very early in real microgravity. In addition, hypergravity experiments will be performed at DLR in Cologne after the campaign.

Please tell us about MARS. What is special about this working group?

MARS stands for 'Magdeburger Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Forschung unter Raumfahrt- und Schwerelosigkeitsbedingungen' (Magdeburg Working Group for Research under Space and Weightlessness Conditions), an interdisciplinary group of researchers with currently 30 members. The group is interdisciplinary and international, which makes for exciting research and attracts young scientists from all over the world. The unique mix of people from different cultural and scientific backgrounds such as medicine, biology, chemistry, physics and mechanics facilitates the development of innovative research approaches. It is fun to be a member.

Prof. Grimm, thank you very much for this interview.