December 16, 1997 in Nation/World

Researchers Grow Living Tissues Aboard Space Station

Washington Post

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.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email