Status Report

StelSys Liver Cell Research (StelSys) Results

By SpaceRef Editor
August 7, 2002
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StelSys liver cell experiments were completed on June 21, 2002, and remain
stored in the ARCTIC Freezer unit 1 until they
are returned to Earth on STS-112. The Biotechnology Specimen Temperature
Controller used to cultivate the samples was deactivated.

cells usually form flat colonies that quickly lose their ability to function.
By using NASA’s rotating Bioreactor, which gently spins cells in a fluid
medium to simulate a reduce-weight environment, StelSys has been able
to produce small, three-dimensional colonies of liver cells that can maintain
their function for at least a week. This makes them ideal candidates for
a range of research. StelSys is hoping that liver cells grown in a true
microgravity environment, as onboard the Station, will resemble naturally-occurring
cell structure even more. "Space is the gold-standard environment
for this cutting-edge cell research. Only in space, a true microgravity
environment, will we be able to isolate and study each of the individual
factors impacting cell function," explained Dr. Fisk Johnson, president
of Fisk Ventures and co-founder of StelSys, in a StelSys press release.
"This will allow us to refine and then optimize ground-based Bioreactor


using space grown liver cells targets different types of treatment. Being
able to replicate the liver’s reaction to a candidate-drug in the laboratory
allows researchers to create better drugs faster. They can screen out
many candidate-drugs before development advances to animal or human testing,
saving time in the long process of bringing new drugs safely to market.

ongoing ground- and space-based research also contributes to the development
of a liver-assist device, a biotechnologically-developed machine that
would maintain liver function while a patient waits for a transplant.
Cultivated cells will also allow researchers to harvest compounds necessary
to improve a patient’s health. Metabolites, chemical by-products produced
by the liver when compounds are broken down, may help in improving drug-screening
methods. Vitamin D3, which helps bolster the immune system of patients
on kidney dialysis or fighting cancer, is expensive and difficult to manufacture.
StelSys can use cultured kidney cells to naturally produce vitamin D3,
and to assess whether this method offers commercial potential.

Related Publications

  • A.K.
    Nussler, A. Wang, P. Neuhaus, J. Fischer, J. Yuan, L. Liu, K. Zeilinger,
    J. Gerlach, P.J. Arnold, and W. Albrecht. 2001. The suitability of hepatocyte
    culture models to study various aspects of drug metabolism. ALTEX.
    18(2):91-101. [Abstract]

  • SpaceRef staff editor.