Man has already gone to the moon, but if we want to continue making longer and longer trips, we must test different scenarios. An astronaut from the International Space Station has for the first time designed human cartilage in space. It's something important aiming at long scale trips.
Before performing the procedures on the ISS, the researchers worked on mathematical models and computer simulations to ensure that it would be feasible. Thus, they could observe how microgravity acts on our cells.
Morphological studies of 3D tissue construction obtained by magnetic levitation in space (Image: Science Magazine)
For the first time, scientists project human cartilage in space
Scientists developed spheroids based on human cartilage cells, which were soon packaged and sent to the ISS, along with a custom magnetic bio-assembler. Already on the International Space Station the manufacturing process required cooling of the cartilage spheroids.
They would then be released into hydrogel packs, prior to placement into the bio-assembler, allowing for proper assembly. In general, these are bioprotective substances that can produce human tissue, but to bind the cartilage cells together requires of gravity.
In this new procedure magnetism was used to overcome the effects caused by microgravity. But, the cells are not magnetic, while the fluid in the mount is, which helps in manipulating the tissue.
(Image: Science Magazine)
Tests could help space travel
This method of magnetic assembly could be used to construct materials in space. Perhaps one day it will be possible to replace human bones during visits to other planets. Still, there is a lot of work ahead to get to an advanced stage like this.
"People are doing biological experiments and growing cells in space, but being able to assemble these building blocks into more complex structures using a biomanufacturing tool is a first," said cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, who is in charge of the experiment.
It turns out that the current machines used in space travel are robust, as they need to survive impacts and high temperatures. But, researchers indicate that this study is an important step in tissue engineering.
Are we going to travel to Mars?
Traveling to Mars remains a distant dream, missions that were projected for the 2020s seem to have been left aside. On the other hand, growing meat and fruit in space is something that has been gaining momentum, making this mission to the Red Planet less scary.
"One can imagine not too far in the future that if we colonize Mars or do long-term space travel, we could do experiments where we build functional tissues in space and test them in extraterrestrial environments," Utkan Demirci, a radiologist at Stanford University, told IEEE Spectrum.
The research was published in Science Advances .
With information from ScienceAlert.