Offworld Biotech: 3D Bioprinting On The International Space Station

Offworld Biotech: 3D Bioprinting On The International Space Station

The primary human knee meniscus efficiently 3D bioprinted in orbit utilizing the BioFabrication Facility.

Think about somebody wants a coronary heart transplant and scientists take cells from that particular person to create a whole new coronary heart for them. Analysis on the Worldwide Area Station helps to convey that dream nearer to actuality.

The method of 3D printing (also called additive manufacturing) permits the design and manufacturing of one-of-a-kind gadgets made from plastic, steel, and different supplies, together with instruments, tools, and even buildings. Organic printing or bioprinting makes use of dwelling cells, proteins, and vitamins as uncooked supplies and has the potential to supply human tissues for treating damage and illness and to create complete organs for transplants.

In Earth’s gravity, bioprinting requires a scaffold or different kind of construction to assist tissues, however within the near-weightlessness of the house station’s orbit, tissues develop in three dimensions with out such assist. Redwire Company developed the BioFabrication Facility (BFF) as part of the bigger objective of utilizing microgravity to bioprint human organs. Widespread Science journal just lately awarded the BFF a 2023 Better of What’s New Award within the Well being Class. These awards, handed out since 1988, acknowledge “groundbreaking improvements altering our world,” in keeping with Widespread Science, and “radical concepts which might be enhancing our on a regular basis lives and our futures.”

NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli swaps parts contained in the BioFabrication Facility (BFF). — NASA

A present investigation, BFF-Cardiac, makes use of the BFF to guage the printing and processing of cardiac tissue samples. Heart problems is the primary reason for demise in the USA. Grownup coronary heart tissue is unable to regenerate, so broken coronary heart tissue is generally changed with scar tissue, which may block electrical alerts and stop correct cardiac contractions. This investigation may assist the event of patches to exchange broken tissue – and ultimately the creation of alternative hearts. The work represents an enormous step towards addressing the numerous hole between the variety of transplant organs wanted and accessible donors.

The BFF-Meniscus investigation and the follow-up BFF-Meniscus-2 investigation resulted within the first profitable bioprinting of a human knee meniscus in orbit utilizing the house station’s BioFabrication Facility, introduced in September 2023. Musculoskeletal accidents, together with tears within the meniscus, are probably the most widespread accidents for the U.S. army and this milestone is a step towards growing improved therapies on the bottom and for crew members who expertise musculoskeletal accidents on future house missions. After preliminary printing and a interval of development in microgravity, the tissues returned to Earth for added evaluation and testing.

The Russian state house company ROSCOSMOS launched tools in 2018, 3D MBP, that included a magnetic printer known as Organ.Aut. A collection of experiments from 2018 by 2020 confirmed that this method may create tissue constructs, serving to to pave the best way for added analysis on producing synthetic organs.

The Protein-Based mostly Synthetic Retina Manufacturing experiment {hardware} on the house station. — NASA

Bioprinting expertise additionally may create synthetic retinas to assist restore sight for the 30 million individuals worldwide that suffer from degenerative retinal illnesses. One technique to manufacture synthetic retinas is a method that alternates layers of a light-activated protein and a binder on a movie. On Earth, gravity impacts the standard of those movies, however researchers suspected that movies created in microgravity can be extra secure and have increased optical readability. Protein-Based mostly Synthetic Retina Manufacturing is certainly one of a number of investigations by LambdaVision Inc. in partnership with developer Area Tango Inc. to develop and validate space-based manufacturing strategies for synthetic retinas. The corporate has persistently manufactured a number of 200-layer synthetic retina movies in microgravity and now could be working to commercialize its {hardware} and methods for growth of different therapies and medicines.

Bioprint FirstAid, a examine from ESA (European Area Company) and the German Area Company (DLR), demonstrated the operate of a prototype for a conveyable handheld bioprinter that creates a patch from a affected person’s personal pores and skin cells. Area causes modifications within the wound therapeutic course of, and such custom-made bandages may speed up therapeutic on future missions to the Moon and Mars. Utilizing cultured cells from the affected person reduces the chance of rejection by the immune system, and the system provides larger flexibility to deal with wound measurement and place. As a result of the system is small and moveable, well being care employees may take it nearly wherever on Earth. The investigation confirmed that the system works as supposed in microgravity, and researchers are finding out the space-printed patches and evaluating them with samples printed on the bottom earlier than taking the subsequent step.

Pattern patches printed utilizing simulant inks and the hand-held software for Bioprint FirstAid. — NASA

Bioprinting in microgravity additionally may make it potential to supply meals and medication on demand on future house missions. Such capabilities would scale back the mass and price of supplies wanted at launch and assist preserve the well being and security of crew members all through a mission.

The 3D Printing In Zero-G investigation, which began in 2014, demonstrated that the method of 3D printing with inorganic supplies resembling plastic labored usually in microgravity.1 3D printing may cut back the necessity to pack pricey spare components on future long-term missions and assist clear up the issue of making an attempt to foretell each software or object that is likely to be wanted on a mission. With the addition of bioprinting capabilities, crews ultimately might be able to 3D print nearly something they want – from a alternative screwdriver to a alternative knee.

John Love, ISS Analysis Planning Integration Scientist

Expedition 70

Search this database of scientific experiments to be taught extra about these talked about above.


1 Prater TJ, Bean QA, Werkheiser N, Grguel R, Beshears RD, Rolin TD, Huff T, Ryan RM, Ledbetter III FE, Ordonez EA. Evaluation of specimens from part I of the 3D Printing in Zero G Know-how demonstration mission. Fast Prototyping Journal. 2017 October 6; 23(6): 1212-1225. DOI: 10.1108/RPJ-09-2016-0142.

Astrobiology, Bioprinting, house biology,