The Associated Press
The International Space Station is set to carry artificial organs in an attempt to tackle five different medical issues, according to a report.
The five “organs-on-chips,” which are described as “transparent slides about the size of an AA battery with microfluidic channels capable of reproducing blood and airflow that are lined with the cells of the organ begin studied,” will be used to research five different issues related to the effects of microgravity on the human body.
“Aboard the ISS, astronauts can observe the cells as they grow in 3D, since the lack of gravity means they don’t settle at the bottom or flatten against the channels’ plastic walls,” reported Engadget on Wednesday. “The first project wants to find out how microgravity’s negative effect on the immune system triggers respiratory infections, which are a common ailment for ISS crew members. Another one wants to study the effects of medication on mitigating bone and cartilage degeneration, which could benefit those suffering from osteoarthritis and similar conditions. The third one wants to study cellular aging as it happens in zero-G and the cells’ recovery after returning to Earth’s environment.”
“Another team will send a kidney-on-a-chip model to the ISS to figure out how microgravity affects kidney function. They intend to use their results to conjure up better treatments for conditions like proteinuria, osteoporosis and kidney stones,” they continued. “The last project’s study will use a brain-on-a-chip model to gather the data needed to optimize the organ-on-a-chip platform itself. While the team’s main goal is to create an automated chip that can make conducting research faster and easier, their results could also provide new insight on neurodegeneration, traumatic injury, and cancer.”
The project is a collaboration between the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), who are funding the experiments for two years with $6 million. Additional funding will be allocated for another two years to the experiments which perform well.
“The opportunity to partner with CASIS to perform tissue chip science on the International Space Station is a remarkable opportunity to understand disease and improve human health,” said NCATS Director Christopher P. Austin, M.D in a press release. “Physiological functions in the microgravity of the International Space Station will provide insights that will increase translational effectiveness on earth, including identifying novel targets for drug discovery and development.”
“Our partnership with NCATS builds upon dramatic results fostered by public and private investment in organ-on-chip research and enables these pioneering researchers the opportunity to leverage the ISS National Laboratory to further advance an integral and burgeoning area of medical discovery to improve human health on Earth,” added CASIS Deputy Chief Scientist Dr. Michael Roberts. “Additionally, through these creative and collaborative partnerships with established granting agencies like the NCATS, the ISS National Lab demonstrates that research in microgravity is a viable setting to push beyond the terrestrial limits of scientific discovery and opportunity.”