Press Release

National Stem Cell Foundation Launches First 3-D Human Model of Parkinson’s and Progressive MS to the International Space Station

By SpaceRef Editor
July 21, 2019
Filed under , ,

The National Stem Cell Foundation (NSCF) announced today that research teams from the New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) Research Institute, Summit for Stem Cell and Aspen Neuroscience will be launching the first brain organoids to study neurodegenerative disease in microgravity to the International Space Station on SpaceX 18, scheduled to launch July 21st from pad 40A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. This is a preliminary flight in preparation for a first-in-kind study of neurodegeneration in microgravity scheduled to launch to the ISS later this fall.

The full research project, an NSCF-funded collaboration between the NY Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute, Summit for Stem Cell and researchers at Aspen Neuroscience, will send patient-derived human 3-D models of Parkinson’s disease (PD) and primary progressive MS (PPMS) to the ISS for a 30-day stay in late 2019. The models, called organoids, will incorporate microglia, the inflammatory cells of the immune system implicated in the pathogenesis of PD, PPMS and other neurodegenerative diseases. The ability to observe cell interaction, cell signaling, migration, changes in gene expression and the common pathway of neuroinflammation for both diseases in microgravity provides an opportunity to view the biological processes and biomarkers involved in a way that is not possible on Earth.  This innovative approach to study has the potential to provide new insights into the mechanism of these diseases that may accelerate new drug and cell therapy options for patients.

Dr. Paula Grisanti, CEO of NSCF said, “The National Stem Cell Foundation is delighted to be funding innovative science at the frontier of new drug and cell therapy discovery. The leading-edge research findings that have developed through this collaboration between important research groups may fundamentally alter our understanding of how and why neurodegeneration occurs.”

The development of patient-specific, 3-D human organoids that incorporate microglia for observation and study in the unique research environment of microgravity has the potential to enable progress in the field, directly impacting diseases like PD, MS and a wide variety of other neurodegenerative conditions affecting a significant portion of the global population. The engineering required to facilitate the transport and cell culture on orbit is being led by Space Tango. The automated systems Space Tango is developing to support this research on ISS provide improved consistency over traditional manual laboratory techniques and expand the number of samples that can be evaluated by incorporating high-throughput capabilities. These autonomous platforms will not only support research on ISS, but also provide opportunities to accelerate terrestrial research.

“The vision the National Stem Cell Foundation brings to using new approaches to science and creating collaborations between leading experts in Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis from across the country is truly unique,” said Jana Stoudemire, Commercial Innovation Officer at Space Tango. “In addition to supporting the development of tissue chip platforms for microgravity, Space Tango is excited to expand capabilities for human 3-D brain organoid models that will assist in studying some of the most challenging diseases we have yet to truly understand.  We are very pleased to support this important research on the ISS and look forward to continuing to work together with the National Stem Cell Foundation and other partners they may bring on for future flights.

Of the 80 research payloads launching to the ISS on SpaceX-CRS-18, NASA will highlight this project and three others during a press briefing that will stream live on NASA TV at 1:00 EDT Tuesday, July 9th.  Audio will stream live online at

Learn more about this collaboration here.

About The National Stem Cell Foundation (NSCF)
The National Stem Cell Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that funds adult stem cell and regenerative medicine research, connects children with limited resources to clinical trials for rare diseases and underwrites the National STEM Scholar Program for middle school science teachers inspiring the next generation of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) pioneers nationwide. For more information, visit

About The New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) Research Institute
The New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute is an independent organization accelerating cures and better treatments for patients through stem cell research. The NYSCF global community includes over 165 researchers at leading institutions worldwide, including NYSCF – Druckenmiller Fellows, NYSCF – Robertson Investigators, NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Prize Recipients, and NYSCF Research Institute scientists and engineers. The NYSCF Research Institute is an acknowledged world leader in stem cell research and in developing pioneering stem cell technologies, including the NYSCF Global Stem Cell Array TM and in enabling large-scale stem cell research for scientists around the globe. NYSCF focuses on translational research in a model designed to overcome the barriers that slow discovery and replace silos with collaboration. For more information, visit

About Summit for Stem Cell
Summit for Stem Cell Foundation’s mission is to support, educate and raise awareness about the development of today’s and tomorrow’s evidence-based regenerative medical therapies focused on Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. It is our goal to empower patients and physicians with information to elevate their understanding in order to manage their care. Summit was founded in 2011 as a grass roots volunteer organization comprised of patients, medical and scientific professionals and community members with a desire to raise funds for a stem cell-based solution to Parkinson’s disease. Today, the organization has grown and successfully launched an iPSC-based therapy research project into the private sector where the project is now on an accelerated path toward FDA-approved clinical trials. Summit continues with a passionate dedication for persons living with Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions by supporting evidence-based regenerative medical research. Summit is proud to be a part of this incredible alliance. For more information, visit

About Space Tango, Inc.
Space Tango provides improved access to microgravity through their Open Orbit platform for bioengineering and manufacturing applications that benefit life on Earth. With their first operational TangoLab facility installed on the International Space Station in 2016, and a second facility installed in 2017, Space Tango has designed and flown nearly 80 diverse payloads.  As a recognized leader in the development of fully automated, remote-controlled systems for research and manufacturing in orbit, Space Tango continues to provide expertise in technology and scientific consulting for industry and academic partners. Leveraging this current work, Space Tango is developing new commercial market segments in space with the announcement of ST-42 — a fully autonomous orbital platform designed specifically for scalable manufacturing in space. Space Tango envisions a future where the next important breakthroughs in both technology and healthcare will occur off the planet, creating a new global market 250 miles up in low Earth orbit. For more information, visit

SpaceRef staff editor.