Sep
07
What Launches to Space on SpaceX’s Next Cargo Mission?


More than a hundred thousand people are on a waiting
list right now for an organ transplant, and unfortunately that usually a one-to-one process. You get a organ when somebody else loses an
organ. What if one day you could print your own organ,
maybe from your own cells? Our goal is is that we’re going to print a
tissue that’s more than a centimeter thick And you think a centimeter, that’s not really
that impressive. Well, that’s more than 10 times what we can
print on the ground, and we think that microgravity is going to be the key. This big L is actually the bioprinter, so
this is the BFF. This actually legacy hardware. This is our ADSEP, or Advanced Space Experiment
Processor. That’s where we will put the tissue after
it’s printed. Basically, it’s the maturation process. It’s what turns a construct into a tissue
because we’re just putting building blocks down and then can step back and let biology
do it biology does. As smart as we think we are biology will always
be smarter. We’re not just bringing back tissue. We’re bringing back tissue that’s cardiac
tissue and it’s going to beat just like a heart. That is cool as anything. So what happens if we build the next thing,
and the next thing and the next thing eventually yeah, we’re going to print a heart. That’s really where we’re going. Biorock is an experiment to study how microbes,
bacteria interact with rocks in microgravity and simulated Martian gravity. And you might think why would we be interested
in what microbes do in rocks? Well microbes on the Earth are used to break
down rocks to release economically important elements. About 60% of the world’s copper and gold is
today extracted in Biomining. So the long-term future exploration of the
Moon and Mars we might want to use microbes to help us break down rocks to do industry. That’s a very long-term view in the shorter
term view microbes break down rocks, turn them into soils. If we want to transform our lunar and Martian
basalt into material that is more useful for agriculture for growing crops rather than
having to take things with us we might use bacteria to do that. And then finally, of course we could use extraterrestrial
materials to supply nutrients and life support systems. Why ship nutrients to the moon and Mars with
all that mass and energy cost when you can just shovel in some lunar and Martian regolith
into your life support system and provide the nutrients from that. Five to ten percent of fractures will not
heal without extra help or intervention by the orthopedic surgeon. And what they use is a drug called bone morphogenetic
protein and this helps to heal the bone. However, there is a risk of developing cancer
with the use of these proteins. So identifying new bone-healing agents is
really important and that’s what we’re testing here. So you may say well, why do we need to do
that in spaceflight? Why can’t we just do it here on Earth? Animals will walk immediately after you do
a bone surgery. Humans, we don’t. We use crutches, we may be bedridden, but
in spaceflight the animals can’t see that gravity and bone healing is helped when you
walk, when you bear weight. And the drugs that we currently have work
through that mechanism the drug we have patented does not, and so we think it will be better
for bone healing and spaceflight if we go to Mars and have a fracture or here on Earth
for the military personnel, for bad auto accidents and even for people with osteoporosis that
have a fracture and it has impaired healing. This video here is showing the bioculture
where the bioreactors will be residing and this has two compartments. One of them is a warm compartment at 37 degrees
that’s where the cells will grow and then the second compartment next to it is a cold
compartment and that’s where all the nutrients and the media will be in. And what happens is that crew member will
inject the media at certain time points to feed these cells and then add the fixative
at the end. The cells will come in back to the Earth and
on Earth what we’re going to do is isolate RNA and DNA and proteins from these cells
and do whole genome analysis whole proteome and how metabolome analysis and this will
help us understand the whole picture. We are taking advantage of a groundbreaking
discovery that was made the almost a decade ago, which is the induced pluripotent stem
cell technologies. So basically what it means is that we are
now able to make in a laboratory stem cells starting from a little fill a little drop
of blood from any of us or a little tiny piece of skin and we convert these cells into what
we call induced pluripotent stem cells. We use them to generate any cell type that
we want. So in our case that we’re studying neurodegenerative
diseases, we really want to make the brain cells and study them. Well have a cell line from a Parkinson’s patient
and also an age-matched control and these will be making dopaminergic neurons and these
are the neurons that are lost in Parkinson’s disease. And we will also have a cell line from a multiple
sclerosis patient and these will be made into cortical neurons and microglia will be added
to those and also in age-matched control. So we’re interested to see what happens in
space. Can we get more mature maturation of these
cells? Can we make a better model for Parkinson’s
Disease and multiple sclerosis? So I think it has a lot of implications for
the health of brain cells of astronauts who spend a lot of time in space, and we’re also
hoping to learn more about these two diseases to have new mechanisms and new insights on
how we can treat patients.