Interlake students' cancer experiment blasts into outer space

Some young Manitoba scientists have been chosen to do a project that is literally out of this world.
Some young Manitoba scientists have been chosen to do a project that is literally out of this world. Katie Nicholson reports. 2:00

 Some young Manitoba scientists have been chosen to do a project that is literally out of this world.

Three grade six students from Brant-Argyle School in the Interlake School Division will conduct an experiment on the International Space Station.

It's the first time NASA has accepted an elementary school level project from Canada to go on board the ISS.

Avery Good, Ryan Petricig, and Ethan Enns have been studying and conducting experiments in their school's lab near Stonewall for the last year, all on their own time.

And their goal is just as lofty as the atmosphere in which it will be conducted - they want to know how to protect scientists like Canada's Chris Hadfield, from cancer caused by radiation.

"We want to know if astronauts can decrease the risk of cancer in space," Petricig explained. "Because there is cosmic radiation which can cause cancer."

It's part of a special education outreach program that allows student projects aboard the ISS, and the Interlake students' project is one out of just 23 accepted.

Avery Good said she knows how special the opportunity is.

"It's quite awesome!" she said.

The experiment involves injecting green tea into a yeast solution, which stands in for human tissue.

The idea is to see if the tea prevents cell mutation.

Ethan Enns said the experiment will spend eight weeks in space, returning in the new year. They'll then examine the solution under a microscope.

"If the plate is red, that means there is mutations," he said. "If it is white, that means there is none or just a little bit of mutations."

And, if it's white, Good said the next step would be to come up with a way to get green tea extracts into or onto the astronauts.

"They can start making supplements for them to take in space so they don't get cancer," she said.

Petricig said it could even take the form of a lotion.

"That could block out (cosmic radiation), kind of like sunscreen," Enns added.

But even if the experiment doesn't work, it's still a success because it inspires the students, said the Interlake director of the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program, Maria Nickel.

"Things that we study in space help us here on earth," she said. "And if we don't have this kind of research, we won't have some of the cool things that we experience on earth; MRIs, CATscans, those all come from NASA technology."


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