On Wednesday, we heard news that a set of immune-system-on-a-chip models were sent to space. What next? The first bioprinted organ in space, of course!
Russian astronauts on-board a spacecraft have reportedly bioprinted a mouse thyroid. This is definitely a world-first in outer-space bioprinting.
Wait - go back a step..
This week, Russian scientists announced the successful launch of their Organ.Aut bioprinter to outer space. They first attempted this in mid October 2018, however experienced a significant setback when the launch vehicle carrying the spacecraft suffered a malfunction. While astronauts Alexey Ovchinin and Nick Hague managed to return to earth in an escape capsule, the original bioprinter was not as fortunate, and was completely destroyed.
However, plan B was a success: a duplicate Organ.Aut reportedly reached the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft on December 3rd.
This is all part of a radical drive to change space exploration. The vision is that 3D printing in space will allow astronauts to build structures, tools and habitats on-demand.
The bioprinter has joined the Additive Manufacturing Facility, which was launched onto the International Space Station in 2016.
The company behind the technology is called ‘3D Bioprinting Solutions’
Space! But 3D Bioprinting Solutions are based in Moscow, Russia
The technology is based on a magnetic 3D printing technology, called the FABION bioprinter. This was used to bioprint a thyroid gland in 2015 (on Earth):
At the 2015 Biofabrication conference in Ultrecht, Netherlands, head of research Vladimir Mironov reported that the organ restored thyroid function in mice with hypothyroidism.
Why bioprint in space?
The parent company of 3D Bioprinting Solutions report that the zero-gravity environment in space makes it a favorable environment for bioprinting, compared to on Earth.
What will happen to the bioprinted organ?
The bioprinted organ will be returned to earth later this month. There are plans for the thyroid to be made public, perhaps in February 2019.