• By Dana Sparks

In the Loop: Astrobiologist uses NASA experience in the fight against cancer

August 8, 2017


Dr. Marina Walther-Antonio arrived at Mayo Clinic with a NASA background, which she's using in her quest to find better prevention and treatment options for gynecological cancers.


Marina Walther-Antonio, Ph.D., was training at NASA's Astrobiology Institute when she first realized a link between medicine and her work as an astrobiologist. While researching how single-celled organisms evolved into multicellular organisms, she discovered that "cancer researchers were examining some of the same pathways to understand how cancer develops and spreads."

In a post on Mayo Clinic's Individualized Medicine blog, Dr. Walther-Antonio says one of those "pathways" involves examining whether what's known about the way organisms grow in outer space can help us better understand and treat diseases here on Earth. (We were wondering about that, too.)

It's the kind of work Dr. Walther-Antonio did while at NASA, and the kind of work she says she's looking forward to continuing at Mayo Clinic as part of the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine Microbiome Program. "When I was recruited to come to Mayo, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to contribute to medical research," she says.

At Mayo, Dr. Walther-Antonio is using her knowledge of the "biology of extreme environments" found on other planets to study "the community of bacteria in and on the human body, known as the microbiome." The research could "unlock the biological processes" that can lead to gynecological cancers, with the goal of developing "better individualized prevention, screening and treatment," she says. Read the rest of the story.
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This story originally appeared on the In the Loop blog.

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