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Redwire Successfully 3D Prints Human Tissue in Microgravity Aboard the ISS & Returns It To Earth

In a groundbreaking development for biotechnology applications and for the first time in history, a human body part has been successfully 3D-printing using human tissue in microgravity.

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Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Fri Sep 08 2023Written by Zac Aubert

In a groundbreaking development for biotechnology applications and for the first time in history, a human body part has been successfully 3D-printing using human tissue in microgravity.

Redwire (NYSE: RDW) has announced the successful 3D printing and return to earth of a human knee meniscus using human tissue with their 3D BioFabrication Facility (BFF). The meniscus was successfully transported from the International Space Station (ISS) to Earth aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft that brought Crew-6 back on September 4. The tissue, printed in July, has now arrived at a terrestrial laboratory.

Credit : Redwire

Collaborating with the Uniformed Services University, Redwire aimed to contribute to the development of improved treatments for injuries such as meniscus tears, which are frequently encountered by service members. For Redwire, the experiment served as a demonstration of the BFF's capability to manufacture tissues for a wide range of applications.

"For us, it's a great target tissue to go after. It allows us to test out our ability to put cells into this type of system, to look at their viability and it's, in a way, a jumping-off point to other tissues that we're going to investigate." - Ken Savin, Chief Scientist at Redwire

The achievement opens the door to a multitude of biotechnological possibilities in space, with a particular focus on producing human tissues for pharmaceutical applications and model development.

"Being able to develop any type of tissue that you want in space in the future has distinct advantages. It will lead us down the path towards model development, tissue replacement therapy, and, ultimately, organ replacement therapy as well." - Ken Savin, Chief Scientist at Redwire

What makes bioprinting in space remarkable is the absence of gravity-related limitations. Normally you have to add chemicals or some kind of structure or framework that allows you to print in that third dimension. Otherwise, it all settles into a puddle. By printing in space, things that are only slightly more viscous than water can be printed into three dimensions.

Redwire is already planning its next ambitious experiment for the BFF, scheduled to launch in November on a cargo Dragon mission. This forthcoming mission will involve the printing of cardiac tissue, testing the BFF's ability to manufacture more complex tissues and evaluate the cells' capacity to function in rhythm.

Credit : Redwire 

"I think heart tissue therapy is a big deal and one that we see value in delivering." - Ken Savin, Chief Scientist at Redwire

Redwire's success has piqued the interest of the pharmaceutical community, with growing demand for experiments using the BFF and other ISS facilities. With the sucess of the BFF "normal everyday scientists" across America are now submitting experiments to be done in space including those who have not traditionally ventured into microgravity research.

"We can talk about those opportunities and try to make an experiment that will test out their hypothesis in space. It's doable, and it happens." - Ken Savin, Chief Scientist at Redwire

The successful 3D-printing of human tissue in microgravity marks a significant step forward in the realm of biotechnology in space, promising groundbreaking developments in medical research and potential life-saving therapies in the future.

As Redwire continues to push the boundaries of scientific exploration, it is clear that the future of healthcare and biotechnology may very well be intertwined with the vast possibilities offered by the cosmos.

About Redwire

Redwire Corporation (NYSE: RDW) is a global leader in mission critical space solutions and high reliability components for the next generation space economy, with valuable intellectual property for solar power generation, in-space 3D printing and manufacturing, avionics, critical components, sensors, digital engineering and space-based biotechnology. It combines decades of flight heritage with an agile and innovative culture. The company’s “Heritage plus Innovation” strategy enables it to combine proven performance with new, innovative capabilities to provide its customers with the building blocks for the present and future of space infrastructure.