Maturation Study of Biofabricated Myocyte Construct (Maturation Study of Biofabricated Myocyte Construct) - 10.25.17

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Science Objectives for Everyone
Maturation Study of Biofabricated Myocyte Construct investigates growth and development of 3D bioprinted cardiac and vascular cells in microgravity. Researchers hypothesize that microgravity closely approximates the environment experienced early in cell development, as tissues first form, providing answers to fundamental questions about materials, biology, and vascularization in 3D bioprinting. If bioprinted cells grow and organize more efficiently in space compared to the ground, more types of cells and materials may be used to build biological structures and tissues. These advances enable the creation of more physiologically accurate tissues and, in the future, organ-like structures that are similar to those found in the body.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Carlos Chang, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details


Principal Investigator(s)
Eugene D. Boland, Ph.D., Techshot, Greenville, IN, United States

Carlos Chang, Ph.D., Techshot, Inc, Greenville, IN, United States
Stuart Williams, II, Ph.D., Bioficial Organs, Louisville, KY, United States

Techshot, Inc, Greenville, IN, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
National Laboratory (NL)

Research Benefits
Earth Benefits, Space Exploration, Scientific Discovery

ISS Expedition Duration
April 2017 - February 2018

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
Information Pending

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • The Maturation Study of Biofabricated Myocyte Construct experiment evaluates how 3D bioprinted cells grow and develop in space and then compares the physical and biological characteristics to identically printed cells grown on earth.
  • The information (celluar growth and development) provides a foundation for future work as Techshot investigates 3D bioprinting of larger, more complex structures in space.
  • The end goal is to establish a system for printing patient specific tissues and organs in space for transplant back on earth.
  • There is a shortage of tissues and organs available to help treat patients with serious health issues.
  • Even if tissues or organs are available, anti-rejection and immune suppressive drugs are required to prevent the patient from rejecting the tissues or organs.
  • It is beneficial to print tissues and organs, on demand, using cells from the patient.
  • 3D printing is a promising technology for potentially creating custom tissues and organs.
  • 3D printing is limited to the cells, materials, and the shapes that can be printed, but Investigators believe the unique microgravity environment of space permits more types of cells, materials, and shapes to be printed.


In recent years, three-dimensional (3D) bioprinting emerges as a platform technology that is reshaping our understanding of biology, medicine, and engineering. Around the world, researchers use these devices to investigate new methods to organize and build structures that contain biological materials and living cells. As the pace of research continues to increase and our knowledge continues to grow, the long-term goal of 3D bioprinting is to create custom, individualized tissues or even whole organs to treat patients in need.
However, before acquiring on-demand printed organs, much work is ahead. As bioprinting research evolves from depositing arrays of small cell clusters to layer-by-layer printing of complex 3D shapes, three fundamental questions are still at the heart of the technology: 1) what are the best materials to print; 2) what are the best cells to print; and, 3) how will larger biological structures be printed?
The first question, “what are the best materials to print?” is a challenging one because materials are limited by what can be printed. On earth, low viscosity materials simply lack the physical properties to overcome gravity and maintain their structure when deposited onto a surface. As a result, chemical modifications are used to alter materials to be thicker, stronger, or more resistant to changing shape. These modifications successfully make materials easier to print, but they often have a negative impact on biology. The chemicals that are useful for manipulating material properties often change the properties and behavior of printed cells. In worst case scenarios, certain cells simply cannot survive. In order to 3D bioprint a wider variety of cells, (and address question 2), investigators need the capability to 3D bioprint a greater breadth of materials, specifically low viscosity, biological materials. Lastly, and intertwined with the first two questions, the key to printing larger structures relies on the ability to include a functional network of blood vessels within the printed structure.
Techshot believes microgravity provides the ideal environment to address these fundamental questions and accelerate the ability to 3D bioprint complex living structures. By removing gravity from the equation, printed materials are selected solely for biological requirements. Cells organize in tissue-specific materials that drive growth and development. Together, this is a new paradigm for thinking about 3D bioprinting.
Techshot makes formal efforts in this research direction by 3D printing biological materials and adult stem cells into vascular and cardiac structures on board a Zero Gravity Corporation aircraft. Test structures are printed during cycles of both zero G and high G forces, permitting evaluation of low viscosity, biological material printing in multiple gravity environments. The cycles of microgravity facilitate layer-by-layer printing of 3D structures with very low viscosities (these materials become puddles if printed on the ground).
The next step is the Maturation Study of Biofabricated Myocyte Construct experiment. Investigators bioprint larger cardiac and vascular structures within specialized containers called bioreactors. These bioreactors not only provide an appropriate environment for culturing the 3D printed structures, they also impart physical l cues to accelerate cell growth and tissue development. The bioreactors permit perfusion of the 3D bioprinted structures to further support cell growth in the larger printed volumes. The planned experiments start by bioprinting identical sets of cardiac and vascular structures within custom bioreactors. One set stays on the ground. The second set is loaded into a Techshot ADvanced Space Experiment Processor (ADSEP) system and launches to the International Space Station. As the structures develop in parallel, they provide insight into the effects of microgravity on the development of 3D bioprinted tissues. Investigators aim to learn if the current understanding of 3D printing and subsequent conditioning (perfusion and physical stimuli) directly translate to construct growth in space, or if modifications are required for longer-term tissue culture.
Investigators strongly believe a microgravity environment significantly advances 3D bioprinting. The Techshot Maturation Study of Biofabricated Myocyte Construct experiment is the next step in that direction. These experiments add answers to the fundamental questions surrounding materials, biology, and vascularization of 3D bioprinted constructs. This work brings the investigation closer to the long-term goal of printing tissues and organs in space.

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Space Applications
As astronauts venture farther from Earth for longer periods of time, experiencing a serious injury becomes inevitable. Given limited availability of medical equipment and supplies, the ability to print replacement tissues or even organs greatly advances treatment of such injuries. This experiment contributes to development of technologies for on-demand printing of tissues and organs for astronauts.

Earth Applications
Shortages of donated tissues and organs are especially acute for patients suffering from cardiovascular diseases. Even when tissues or organs are available, patients must take anti-rejection and immune suppressive drugs for life. Long term, these drug regimens have negative effects. Bioprinting tissues and organs on demand, using a patient’s own cells, eliminates the risk of rejection and could improve quality of life. This investigation’s ultimate goal is establishing a system for printing patient-specific tissues and organs in space for transplant back on Earth.

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Operational Requirements and Protocols
The Techshot Maturation Study of Biofabricated Myocyte Construct has a 3D bioprinted geometry containing cardiac and vascular cells. The system is completely automated; physical conditioning of the construct and media exchange occurs on a regular schedule. Apart from loss-of-signal periods, health and status information from the investigation is received every second. Each health and status message contains the thermistor (thermally sensitive resistors) values, bioreactor motor status, and timeline state information. Temperature values are logged periodically to a file throughout the course of a timeline. In addition, as the 3D bioprinted construct develops on station, short video clips are acquired every 4 hours for the duration of the experiment. Once returned to earth, these files are compared to identical 3D printed constructs developed on the ground. The 3D bioprinted constructs are then collected for evaluation via histology (the study of the microscopic structure of tissues), immunohistochemistry (the use of antibodies to test for certain markers in tissue), and molecular biological assays (quality and quantity measurements). Together, this information helps determine how development of our biofabricated system is affected by its time in a space environment.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

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Related Websites

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