Space Tech Targets Cancer

Using Astronomers' Tools to Understand Space to Fight Cancer

Source:  NASA - Cloud of Gas & Dust

Detection and Analysis By Light
Techniques used by astronomers to understand the formation of planets and stars can help in the early detection of skin and breast cancers in humans here on earth.  This is new research on the cross-disciplinary use of space technology to fight cancer just published by the University of Exeter, UK.

Shedding Light From Space
The specific technique is the detection and analysis by light.  Astronomers study the light that is scattered, pulled in and discharged by clouds of gas and dust in space.  By following the light, they're developing information on what's inside the massive clouds to determine, among other things, how stars and planets are created.

Shedding Light on Cancer
The process is very similar when light travels through the human body.  When light hits cancerous tissue, a change is seen.  For instance, breast cancer creates tiny deposits of calcium that can be detected through a shift in wavelength of light as it passes through the tissue.  The researchers realized that the computer codes designed to study the formation of stars and planets can be applied to find these deposits in humans.  They are currently refining computer models on this.

Space Medicine
The UK research team says they expect to develop a rapid diagnostic test using the system to help patients avoid biopsies.  They are already working with a UK hospital and clinicians to move the technology forward and pave the way for clinical trials.


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