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i3S team selected by the European Space Agency Academy

A team of young i3S researchers was recently selected by the program Spin Your Thesis!, sponsored by the European Space Agency Academy, to test the effect of hypergravity on intestinal permeability. The objective is to test two drugs incorporated in nanosystems - one is an anticancer agent and the other is a treatment for diabetes. This is a pioneering study since the effect of hypergravity on the intestinal epithelium has never been reported.

Cláudia Azevedo, Maria Helena Macedo, Andreia Almeida, Soraia Pinto, and Bruno Sarmento comprise the "Artemis" team, who will start training in late January in Transinne, Belgium, at the European Space Security and Education (ESEC), together with another selected team from Italy. The experiment itself will take place in September at Noordjwik, Netherlands, at the European Space Research and Technology Center (ESTEC).

Cláudia Azevedo, who leads the team, explains that they intend to "use an in vitro model that mimics the intestinal epithelium and test nanoformulations developed by members of the team to try to understand the influence that hypergravity may have on the permeability of these compounds in the human intestine". She adds that "we want to understand the influence of hypergravity on the morphology of cells and on the expression of proteins involved in intestinal absorption. According to a study carried out in a nasal model, hypergravity significantly increases the permeability of drugs. Given this, we think that by exposing intestinal cells to hypergravity conditions, we could also verify this effect in drugs incorporated in nanosystems".

Spin Your Thesis! is a program aiming to offer Master's and PhD students the opportunity to design, build, and test their own hypergravity experience in ESTEC's Large Diameter Centrifuge. This centrifuge is capable of simulating the force of gravity up to 20 times higher than what we experienced on Earth's surface.

"Experimenting with the European Space Agency is a unique opportunity, not only at a scientific and curricular level, but also at a personal level. In addition, this program allows us to meet two space agencies, have meetings with space engineers and be accompanied by ESA technicians", said Maria Helena Macedo, Andreia Almeida and Soraia Pinto. The activities of the team, the only Portuguese to be selected for this program, can be followed on Twitter.