Astronauts will 3D print part of a human knee in space


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Astronauts on the International Space Station will soon 3D print or rather bioprint the human knee in space. 

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This endeavour is in collaboration between NASA, Redwire and the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences Centre for Biotechnology. They’re sending a new 3D printer to the ISS, Redwire’s BioFabrication Facility in order to bioprinted human knee meniscus in space and study the result on Earth.

The main goal is to allow for treatments for meniscal injuries often faced by US soldiers. In the long term, Redwire hopes to 3D print whole human organs in space.

It uses a combination of adult human cells and proteins to create human tissues. The machine releases bioinks via four print heads, similar to 3D printing with plastics.

This machine has been upgraded, bringing in better temperature control to keep the bioinks at the ideal consistency for optimal printing. It also offers new camera views so that ground controllers can better control the prints.

The printer is expected to fly to the ISS aboard a supply rocket that’s scheduled to blast off on November 6th from NASA’s Wallops Island Spaceport. The mission includes over 20 ISS National Lab-sponsored payloads. The materials needed to bioprint will be on a subsequent flight.

Rich Boling, Redwire VP said in a statement, “Using the BFF (BioFabrication Facility), we can create true tissue-like structures in a better way and larger than you can terrestrially. We can also use the BFF to print organoids, which could be used to test drug efficacy and reduce the need for laboratory animals.”

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