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Scientists aim to 3D bioprint human tissue in space

Published in Bioprinting.

Gravity makes it difficult to bioprint the finer details of human tissue and organs. That’s why the International Space Station is playing host to an experiment to 3D print organ-like tissues that can help advance human health on Earth.

Earlier this month, the SS Sally Ride cargo capsule made its way to the International Space Station. The spacecraft was carrying hundreds of pounds of scientific experiments. One of them involves what’s called a 3D BioFabrication Facility, which can build human tissue and organs in space that scientists can’t make on Earth.

Marketplace’s Kimberly Adams speaks with Rich Boling, vice president at Redwire, which manufactures the equipment for these experiments. She asked him about how 3D printing works when you’re printing something that’s alive. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation:

Rich Boling: Printers that you might have in your office or at home have ink. And so, our bio printer also uses bio inks. Sometimes we use stem cells, sometimes we use very specific types of cells, muscle, vasculature, nerve, and mix that with a media — a nutrient media that keeps those cells happy and alive. And when you mix the two, then that’s how you create a bio ink. And our bio printer for space holds four separate bio inks at a time. We literally upload a file of what we want to print and the device goes to work with those four bio inks laying down layer upon layer upon layer, to print a construct.