NASA Experiment: Astronauts Growing Organs Aboard the International Space Station

The month-long experiment is being conducted by University of Zurich researchers and NASA astronauts.
Fabienne Lang

There's a lot happening on the International Space Station (ISS). One of the exciting projects NASA astronauts are currently working on is growing three-dimensional cultures in order to see how zero gravity assists their growth. 

What that means is that they're growing new organs in Space. The experiment is an attempt to grow human tissue from human stem cells sent from Earth. 

Growing organs in Space

The hope is that these stem cells will eventually turn into bone, cartilage, and other organs. Once that's achieved, the hope is that the experiment will open doors to grow organs that are ready for transplant

The reason the project is taking place in Space is to use "weightlessness as a tool", as per Cara Thiel's description. Thiel is one of the two researchers from the University of Zurich who is conducting this research. 

NASA Experiment: Astronauts Growing Organs Aboard the International Space Station
NASA astronaut Nick Hague with the BioFrabication Facility organ, Source: NASA

By being in zero gravity, human stem cells are encouraged to grow in a 3D manner. Down on Earth, so far, these are only able to grow in single-layer structures.

The astronauts on the ISS are attempting to grow the stem cells in a mobile mini-laboratory that was sent up via SpaceX's Dragon capsule and arrived just last week


The experiment is expected to last one month as the astronauts observe the growth of the stem cells. If all goes to plan the laboratory will move to a bigger production. It's from there that NASA could then use this process to generate tissue for transplants from cells of patients. 

Moreover, it could generate organ-like material that could potentially be used for other medical experiments, which would minimize the use of animals in drug testing and experiments. 

Professor Ullrich, head researcher of the experiment is hopeful about the experiment as investigations both on Earth and in Space suggest that cells in microgravity "exhibit spatially unrestricted growth and assemble into complex 3D aggregates. 

Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron
Job Board