Spheroid formation of human thyroid cancer cells in an automated culturing system during the Shenzhou-8 Space mission

Biomaterials. 2013 Oct;34(31):7694-705. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2013.06.054. Epub 2013 Jul 16.


Human follicular thyroid cancer cells were cultured in Space to investigate the impact of microgravity on 3D growth. For this purpose, we designed and constructed a cell container that can endure enhanced physical forces, is connected to fluid storage chambers, performs media changes and cell harvesting automatically and supports cell viability. The container consists of a cell suspension chamber, two reserve tanks for medium and fixative and a pump for fluid exchange. The selected materials proved durable, non-cytotoxic, and did not inactivate RNAlater. This container was operated automatically during the unmanned Shenzhou-8 Space mission. FTC-133 human follicular thyroid cancer cells were cultured in Space for 10 days. Culture medium was exchanged after 5 days in Space and the cells were fixed after 10 days. The experiment revealed a scaffold-free formation of extraordinary large three-dimensional aggregates by thyroid cancer cells with altered expression of EGF and CTGF genes under real microgravity.

Keywords: Apoptosis; Biocompatibility; Bioreactor; Growth factors; Polyetheretherketone; Thyroid cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bioreactors
  • Cell Culture Techniques / methods*
  • Humans
  • Ketones
  • Polyethylene Glycols
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Space Flight
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Weightlessness


  • Ketones
  • polyetheretherketone
  • Polyethylene Glycols