Space Stations

ISS National Lab Research Announcement Seeking Tissue Engineering and Biomanufacturing Proposals Opens

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
October 3, 2022
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ISS National Lab Research Announcement Seeking Tissue Engineering and Biomanufacturing Proposals Opens
ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet conducts biomedical research on the ISS.

A research announcement to leverage the unique microgravity environment of the International Space Station (ISS) for in-space production applications within the biomedical community is now open.

The ISS National Laboratory is specifically soliciting research concepts that seek to enhance tissue engineering and biomaterials that could be developed or manufactured in low Earth orbit (LEO).

Through in-space production and manufacturing efforts, the ISS National Lab seeks to enable new business models that can grow capital investment and develop a robust market in LEO. Both NASA and the ISS National Lab have prioritized utilization of the space station for in-space production applications and manufacturing opportunities, and this research announcement reflects a desire to build on this growing area of emphasis.

The ISS National Lab is seeking proposals in the areas of regenerative medicine and biofabrication as well as associated technologies that may benefit from the unique environment of the space station. Of particular interest are studies that propose to:

  • Exploit the benefits of stem cell research in the microgravity environment for therapeutic applications on Earth
  • Demonstrate an organoid or multicellular culture system to model human diseases that can be used for testing therapeutics
  • Develop or leverage existing systems on the space station for the production of tissues or other biocompatible materials for regenerative medicine

Under sponsorship of the ISS National Lab, Redwire Space will launch an enhanced BioFabrication Facility (BFF) on the next Commercial Resupply Services mission (funded by NASA) to the space station. The company seeks to enable effective ways of printing human tissues and, potentially one day, organs for patients on Earth and for future space travelers. Researchers believe the space environment is beneficial for biofabrication because microgravity allows delicate tissues to mature and strengthen without collapsing under their own weight as they do on Earth. If validated, the BFF will be a forthcoming facility available for researchers to use to further in-space production applications.

Another ISS National Lab-sponsored project on that same mission is from a team of researchers at Emory University who will look to microgravity as an environment that speeds up the growth of human cardiac muscle cells. Results from this investigation, which is funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, could lead to the development of therapies to replace damaged cells in patients with heart disease on Earth.

Both of these projects are examples of how researchers can take advantage of the novel environment onboard the space station to advance in-space production applications. Findings from such investigations will help improve patient care on Earth and aid in the development of technologies applicable to future space platforms and/or strengthening commerce in LEO.

This research announcement follows a two-step proposal process. The Step 1: Concept Summary is due at the close of business on November 29, 2022. Only approved Step 1 concepts will be invited to submit a full proposal. For more information on this research announcement, including how to attend an upcoming webinar slated for October 13, 2022, please visit our research announcement overview webpage. To learn more about the ISS National Lab and the science that it sponsors, please visit our website.

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.