Laboratory of Space Medicine and Space Pharmacology

Space Biology and Life Sciences, Professor Dr. med. Daniela Gabriele Grimm

Shenzhou-8 flight project of Daniela Grimm and team

Experiment 14 - Impact of microgravity on human thyroid carcinoma cells

The principle aim of this Shenzhou spaceflight is to investigate how thyroid carcinoma cells react, when they are exposed to real microgravity. These experiments will confirm and/or extend the knowledge, which we gained when we characterized the thyroid cancer cells after exposure to simulated microgravity. The expected information may help to improve in vitro cancer studies such as antitumor drug or transendothelial migration tests. Our group had the opportunity to participate in the German - Chinese co-operation SIMBOX. This Shenzhou-8 Spaceflight Experiment investigates biological samples in Space. The first studies for this project started in the end of 2008, when we received materials from the company EADS/Astrium to test them for their biological compatibility to our thyroid carcinoma cells (cell line FTC-133). A short time after this test, the first prototype of the container in which the cells can be transported to Space was delivered to our laboratory (beginning of 2009). These first containers were rather large. The final versions are completely automated and were developed in a short time. The first final set of containers comprising 5 hardware samples are called ground models (GMs) were handed over to us in 2010. In December of the same year, we received 6 more hardware models - the flight models (FMs). Why 6? We are able to send 3 hardware models into the orbit. The other 3 models are used for the ground control experiment. For the transport of the hardware models to the orbit they will be integrated into the Biobox.


The Biobox is a device built by Kaiser-Italia. Thus, it is possible to operate hardware models of 17 experiments at once. During the unmanned Shenzhou-8 mission, the Biobox will be transported with the spaceship to the orbit fastened to the seat in place of the Taikonauts. 6 of the 17 experiments are performed by German workgroups, one experiment is a co-operation between a German and a Chinese laboratory and the others are carried out by Chinese workgroups (Link to DLR: In March/April 2011, Xiao Ma and Jessica Pietsch of our group flew the first time to China to participate in the matching test in Beijing. The test was necessary to practice and to optimize the operational procedures of the assembly of the hardware and the Biobox for the start of the rocket in October/November 2011.


On October 11, 2011 Xiao and Jessica flew again to China for the start of the spaceship Shenzhou-8 (pronounced as: Schen Cheo) which means divine ark. A detailed diary of the mission from Florian Kohn of the University of Hohenheim can be found here: Link to the University of Hohenheim ( The time in China was eventful and successful: Thyroid cancer cells in Space! Although, Xiao and Jessica did not sleep much in the time from assembly of the hardware on October 31, 2011 over the rocket start on November 1, 2011 to the start of the ground references on November 2, 2011. The teams could see the start of the rocket live from a distance of about 1300 m at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center (JSLC, in the Gobi desert).


Sponsered by Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft/Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt 50WB0524,50WB0824, and 50WB1124, University of Magdeburg, and Aarhus University