February 19, 2020
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Jessica Meir conducting experiments on space station that could aid cancer treatment

Dmitri Lovetsky | AP
Dmitri Lovetsky | AP
Astronaut Jessica Meir, a member of the main crew of the expedition to the International Space Station, waves prior the launch of Soyuz MS-15 space ship at the Russian-leased Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Sept. 25, 2019.

Maine astronaut Jessica Meir has been aboard the International Space Station only a few days, but she is already at work on experiments that could prove key to cancer patients down here on Earth.

Meir on Tuesday tweeted pictures of herself observing protein crystals growing in microgravity during her third microscopy session.

“Without gravity, crystals can grow bigger and more pure,” she said in the tweet.

A new class of drugs, made from engineered proteins, stimulate the body’s own immune system to fight cancer and other ailments, but typically need to be delivered in large quantities at a hospital, where it may take several hours for a patient to receive a single dose, according to NASA.

This research Meir is engaged in, which isn’t possible on Earth, could yield highly concentrated protein crystals that, according to NASA, would allow such drugs to be delivered as a simple injection in a doctor’s office. Besides potential applications for cancer treatment, NASA says this research may prove beneficial for developing treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, viral infections and liver disease.

On Sept. 25, Meir became the third Mainer, and first Maine woman, to go into space when the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft carried her from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the International Space Station. Meir is from Caribou.

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