Spaceflight equipment manufacturer Techshot and the 3D printing system manufacturer nScrypt are launching their 3D BioFabrication Facility (BFF) bioprinter on the International Space Station (ISS) soon. The BFF is claimed to be the first 3D printer that can manufacture human tissue under the condition of microgravity. The pair plans to launch the BFF with the SpaceX CRS-18 cargo mission from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The project is intended to help produce self-supporting tissues that could aid the development of treatments. Greenville, Indiana-based Techshot has accumulated almost thirty years of experience in the development of spaceflight equipment.
While the companies were conducting research, they discovered that 3D bioprinted soft, easy-flowing biomaterial, which is human tissue, cannot handle their own weight, although, the same materials can maintain their structure when produced in the conditions of microgravity present in space. As a result, these structures will be made of blood vessels and muscle and will be 3D bioprinted in space. These structures will then be stored in a cell-structuring system, which will strengthen them gradually. At the end of this process, these structures will become viable, self-supporting tissues that will be able to retain their form even on Earth. John Vellinger, President and CEO, Techshot has commented that they had been working on the concept of using a 3D bioprinter to develop tissue or an organ in space.
This is Vellinger’s second project on a NASA mission, with the first one being the study that was powered by KFC. The study was performed to examine the effects of microgravity on the growth of chicken embryos. The early stages for BFF could go on for almost two years, during which, it will create test prints of cardiac-like tissue of increasing thickness. Following that, the heart patches manufactured in microgravity will be assessed on Earth, under a microscope, and on rats. This phase is scheduled to end by the year 2024.