- Press Release
- Mar 22, 2023
Life Science Investigations Launching To ISS On SpaceX CRS-27
Two tissue chip investigations funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are among the payloads launching on SpaceX’s 27th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission to the International Space Station (ISS). These projects, sponsored by the ISS National Laboratory, will study microgravity’s effects on engineered heart muscle tissue, and results could lead to new treatments for heart disease.
This mission also includes life sciences projects from several commercial entities: a biotechnology startup advancing its desktop drug manufacturing system, a large pharmaceutical company studying protein crystallization to improve therapeutic production processes, and a Commercial Service Provider testing a bioprinter that can print human tissues in the absence of gravity.
All of these ISS National Lab-sponsored projects aim to further research and development that brings value to humanity, validates new technologies and space-based facilities, and enables a sustainable economy in low Earth orbit.
Here is a quick look at some of the ISS National Lab-sponsored life science payloads on this mission:
Research teams from Johns Hopkins University and Stanford University are using tissue chips in space to improve understanding of heart disease and develop new drugs to treat heart conditions on Earth. These projects were funded through the Tissue Chips in Space initiative, a multiyear collaboration between the ISS National Lab and NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. Tissue chips are systems containing human cells grown on artificial scaffolding to represent functional units of an organ. Muscles, including the heart, can weaken in microgravity, so heart muscle tissue chips in space could be used to model heart disease and screen potential new drugs. These projects build on knowledge both teams gained from previous tissue chip investigations on the space station.
Researchers from pharmaceutical company Bristol Myers Squibb will use the microgravity environment of the ISS to study the crystallization of biotherapeutic compounds. In space, some protein crystals grow larger and more well-ordered than on Earth, and the research team aims to identify the physical conditions that result in high-quality crystals. The Bristol Myers Squibb team aims to determine how this knowledge could help improve biomanufacturing processes, elucidation of the structure of complex molecules, and convenient delivery of higher doses of therapeutic proteins on Earth. This research builds on a previous ISS National Lab-sponsored project from the company.
Current drug manufacturing relies on large-scale, centralized processes that have high infrastructure cost and lack flexibility for precision medicine. Biomedical startup MakerHealth seeks to transform the drug manufacturing process by providing a modular, dynamic desktop system that utilizes the advantages of flow chemistry. The company will use microgravity to explore ways to optimize its AmpliRx modular biochemical manufacturing platform, which could significantly reduce the cost of manufacturing life-saving medications that are typically cost-prohibitive. This project was awarded through the Technology in Space Prize (funded by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, Inc. and Boeing in partnership with the MassChallenge startup accelerator program).
The upgraded Redwire Space BioFabrication Facility (BFF) that recently launched to station will produce its first print using materials that are launching on this mission. Researchers will use the 3D bioprinter to create a human meniscus, or knee cartilage. Results from this project will help pave the way for in-space bioprinting of tissues—and possibly even organs in the future—that could one day help patients back on Earth. The BFF was first launched to the ISS in 2019, and this upgraded version offers better temperature control to keep the bioinks at the ideal consistency for optimal printing. It also provides new camera views so that ground controllers can better control the prints.
SpaceX CRS-27 is slated to launch no earlier than March 14, 2023, from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
These are only a few of the investigations sponsored by the ISS National Lab that are launching on this mission. To learn more about all ISS National Lab-sponsored payloads on SpaceX CRS-27, please visit our launch page.