NASA’s Solution to Stem Cell Production is Out of this World

NASA and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center have sent stem cells into space in order to determine whether they grow differently without G-force.

NASA and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center are launching stem cells into space. In the study, funded by NASA and being conducted by scientists at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, the stem cells have been sent into space and will orbit for just over a month’s time to determine whether they grow differently without G-force.

A remotely controlled container of cells, with reagents and equipment needed to remotely sustain the cells, arrived at the International Space Station over the weekend. Two queries are presented alongside the launch details: do cells age differently in low orbit and can the Earthly challenges of stem cell growth amplification be overcome in space?

The human body is comprised of a full library of cell types, cataloged by specialty and location such as the striated cardiac muscles or the branching neurons in the brain. Each of these cells began as a raw stem cell and has developed in a particular manner. The cells can multiply to become a plentiful stem cell line under the correct conditions, but laboratory settings that would generate the quantity needed for medicinal purposes pose challenges that require innovative thinking.

Despite being featured in many biologic candidates currently under research and development and in clinical trials, mass-producing stem cells for use in these therapeutics isn’t feasible. To prevent conglomeration or losing the stem cells at the bottom of a reactor tank, the bioreactor must be stirred at a rate that causes probable cell death. The end result is very few stem cells suitable for therapeutic and research use. By launching stem cells into space, the Cedars-Sinai research team is hoping to overcome these production limitations.

With stem cells, the possibilities and applications are increasing each day. They can work as models for testing drug safety and efficacy, thus reducing the burden placed on animal model research, be used as regenerative cells for those that have suffered damage as a result of injury or disease and even as a basic tool to help researchers further understand the human body.

“By pushing the boundaries like this, it’s knowledge and it’s science and it’s learning,” Clive Svendsen, executive director at the Cedars-Sinai Regenerative Medicine Institute, commented. Svendsen has sent a part of himself along with the project, as the donor of the stem cells.

Various other studies are being conducted by research teams around the globe in an effort to better understand the potential of stem cells.

Just last week, researchers from the University of Malta announced the launch of a similar mission that will be conducted aboard a SpaceX craft. The Maleth II project is the second installment of the Maleth Program that is designed to evaluate how human skin tissue cell genetics react to low earth orbit. A remotely controlled biocube will orbit the Earth for 60 days while the single cells are analyzed for changes.

The student researchers at the university are being directly supported by Malta’s national Research, Innovation, Development Trust and the study itself is in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, Singleron Biotechnologies