Madrid, 4 one. (European Press) –
The secret to producing large batches of stem cells more efficiently may lie in near zero-gravity conditions in space. Scientists at Cedars-Sinai in the US have discovered that microgravity has the potential to contribute to life-saving progress on Earth by facilitating the rapid mass production of stem cells.
A new research paper, led by Cedars Sinai and published in the journal Stem Cell Reports, highlights key opportunities discussed during the 2020 Biofabrication in Space Symposium for expanding stem cell manufacturing in space.
Biofabrication — a type of stem cell production that uses biological materials such as microbes to produce biomaterials and materials suitable for use in preclinical, clinical and therapeutic applications — could be more productive under microgravity conditions.
“We are discovering that spaceflight and microgravity are desirable sites for biomanufacturing because they impart very special properties to biological tissues and biological processes that can aid in the large-scale production of cells or other products in ways that are not widely used. They can do on Earth, Explains stem cell biologist Aaron Sharma, a research scientist and head of a new research lab at the Cedar-Sinai Board of Directors Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the Smidt Heart Institute and the Department of Biomedical Sciences.
“In the past two decades, there have been remarkable advances in regenerative medicine and tremendous advances in space technologies that open up new opportunities to access and commercialize space,” he adds.
According to the Cedars-Sinai document, participants in a virtual space symposium in December identified more than 50 potential business opportunities for a space biomanufacturing business. The most promising products fall into three categories: disease modeling, biomanufacturing, and stem cell-derived products.
The first, disease modeling, is used by scientists to study diseases and possible treatments by cloning fully functional structures, either with stem cells, organelles (miniature three-dimensional structures grown from human stem cells that resemble human tissue) or other tissues.
Researchers have found that when the body is exposed to low gravitational conditions for extended periods of time, it experiences accelerated bone loss and aging. By developing disease models based on the accelerated aging process, researchers can better understand the mechanisms of the aging process and disease progression.
“Not only could this work help astronauts, but it could also lead us to create skeletal or musculoskeletal structures that can be applied to diseases such as osteoporosis and other forms of accelerated bone aging and muscle wasting that people on Earth suffer.” , Sharma, corresponding author of the article, predecessor.
Another hotly discussed topic at the symposium was biofabrication, which uses manufacturing processes to produce materials such as tissues and organs. 3D printing is one of the main biofabrication technologies.
One of the main problems with producing these substances on Earth is the density created by gravity, which makes it difficult for cells to expand and grow. With no gravity and density in space, scientists hope they can use 3D printing to print unique shapes and products, such as organelles or heart tissue, in a way that cannot be reproduced on Earth.
The third category concerns stem cell production and understanding how some of their basic properties are affected by microgravity. Some of these characteristics are potency, or the ability of a stem cell to renew itself, and differentiation, the ability of stem cells to become other types of cells.
Understanding some of the effects of spaceflight on stem cells may lead to better ways to generate large numbers of cells in the absence of gravity. Cedars-Sinai scientists will send stem cells into space early next year, in collaboration with NASA and private contractor, Space Tango, to test whether it is possible to produce large batches in a low-gravity environment.
Sharma admits: “Although we are still in the exploratory phase for some of this research, this is no longer in the realm of science fiction.” Within the next five years we could see a scenario where we find cells or tissues that can be synthesized in a way that is not possible here on Earth, and I think that’s very exciting,”
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