Researchers Grow Living Tissues Aboard Space Station
For the first time, researchers have grown full living tissues from cells in space. The cartilage-like material grown in near-zero-gravity aboard the Russian Mir space station was viable but, not surprisingly, smaller, weaker and more spherical than its equivalents cultivated on Earth.
“It was a technical feat just to keep the cells alive,” said Lisa E. Freed, lead author of a report in the Dec. 9 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
A key to the complex experiment’s success, Freed said, was frequent tending and trouble-shooting by astronaut researcher John Blaha during his stay aboard Mir last year.
The team isolated several million calf cartilage cells and “planted” them on meshes of suture material inside a device called a bioreactor, which kept the cells supplied with nutrients and removed wastes.