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

publication date: Oct 27, 2023
author/source: International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory

NASA astronaut and Expedition 65 Flight Engineer Megan McArthur loads protein crystallography plates with protein solutions for the Real-time Protein Crystal Growth experiment.

 Image Credit: NASA


A new research announcement to leverage the unique environment of the International Space Station (ISS) to advance tissue engineering and biomanufacturing is now open.

The ISS National Laboratory® is soliciting concepts for applied research and technology development for regenerative medicine applications seeking to demonstrate space-based manufacturing and production activities for terrestrial applications. Through this research announcement, multiple projects will be awarded funding to support project costs, hardware and integration costs, and flight allocation to the orbiting laboratory.

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 low Earth orbit (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 conditions on 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

As a recent example, Redwire Space launched an updated BioFabrication Facility (BFF) to further bioprinting capabilities in the absence of gravity. The company successfully bioprinted a complete human meniscus (a protective piece of cartilage in the knee joint) in space for the first time and returned it to Earth earlier this month. This significant milestone helps pave the way to one day being able to print tissues and organs in space for patients on Earth and future space travelers. 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.

On an upcoming Commercial Resupply Services mission to the space station, a prior ISS National Lab Research Announcement recipient will launch neural organoid models to better understand mechanisms behind human neurodegenerative disease. The investigation, led by the National Stem Cell Foundation, uses induced pluripotent stem cells derived from patients with Parkinson’s disease and primary progressive multiple sclerosis to develop a brain organoid model that will be tested on Earth and in microgravity, where the onset and progression of the disease is accelerated. This accelerated model of disease can advance biomarker discovery for improved diagnosis and accelerate drug discovery and development for the treatment of neurodegenerative disease.

Findings from such investigations will help improve patient care on Earth and help establish a robust and sustainable economy 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 20, 2023. Only approved Step 1 concepts will be invited to submit a full proposal. For more information on this research announcement, 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.


About the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory

The International Space Station (ISS) is a one-of-a-kind laboratory that enables research and technology development not possible on Earth. As a public service enterprise, the ISS National Laboratory® allows researchers to leverage this multiuser facility to improve quality of life on Earth, mature space-based business models, advance science literacy in the future workforce, and expand a sustainable and scalable market in low Earth orbit. Through this orbiting national laboratory, research resources on the ISS are available to support non-NASA science, technology, and education initiatives from U.S. government agencies, academic institutions, and the private sector. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space™ (CASIS™) manages the ISS National Lab, under Cooperative Agreement with NASA, facilitating access to its permanent microgravity research environment, a powerful vantage point in low Earth orbit, and the extreme and varied conditions of space.



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