NASA scientists have used space technology to arrive at a link between bacteria in breast ductal fluid and breast cancer. NASA technology was applied for a breast cancer study on microbes that may have some links with the history of breast cancer. It was conducted by researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, California.
Scientists applied the analysis and sequencing techniques that are usually harnessed to look at bacteria in spacecraft assembly rooms, in order to prevent NASA spacecraft from infecting other worlds.
“We applied these planetary protection techniques in the first-ever study of microorganisms in the human breast ductal fluid,” said Parag Vaishampayan, a scientist in biotechnology and planetary protection at JPL.
The findings were published in the online journal Scientific Reports. They explain that excitingly, the first examination of microorganisms in human breast ductal fluid made scientists apply the planetary protection techniques, which revealed differences in the fluid between people affected by cancer and others who were not. It helped to explore the link between breast cancer and breast ductal microbiome.
The “nipple aspirate fluid,” secreted by glands in the breast ductal system that also produced milk was studied. Scientists found that breast ductal fluid’s microorganisms were different between one group of 25 women who had a history of breast cancer and 23 healthy ones.
“This publication represents a success for JPL’s Medical Engineering Forum Initiative, which focuses on applying NASA technology for medical needs here on Earth,” said JPL’s Leon Alkalai, who was spearheading the initiative.
The new study can help the researchers to analyse further the role of microbes in either leading to or preventing cancer. Microbes tend to contribute to 16 percent or more malignancies worldwide, says recent study.
“We don’t yet know nearly enough about healthy and cancerous breasts — neither the microbial landscape nor the anatomy of the breast duct system. Yet, all breast cancer begins in the ducts, so clearly exploration is critical to discovering what causes breast cancer and how we can eradicate the disease,” Dr. Susan Love, chief visionary officer of Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, Encino, California.