GREENVILLE, Ind. (April 26, 2019) – An uncrewed SpaceX cargo resupply spacecraft scheduled to launch to the International Space Station May 1 will contain experiment modules specially-developed by Techshot Inc., for a Massachusetts Institute of Technology tissue chip experiment. Tissue chip devices are designed as accurate models of the structure and function of human tissues such as the lungs, liver, heart and bone.
In June 2017 the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, or NCATS, partnered with the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory to collaborate on refining tissue chip technology for biomedical research use on the space station. Research at the ISS National Lab provides unprecedented opportunities to study the effects of microgravity on the human body – effects that often resemble aging. Tissue chip applications in space are expected to contribute to an understanding of the process of aging and could lead to solutions for slowing it.
The MIT investigation launching on SpaceX CRS-17 is among the first supported by NCATS and the ISS-NL. It will study the effects of microgravity on the musculoskeletal system by focusing on cartilage, bone and synovium, the soft tissue surrounding joints. There are no disease-modifying drugs for any type of osteoarthritis on Earth other than painkillers, which do not halt the progression of disease.
These experiments on the ISS, which involve cultured pieces of human cartilage, bone and synovial tissue, have the potential to lead to the discovery of treatments and treatment regimens that, if administered immediately after a joint injury, may halt the progression of the disease before it becomes irreversible. The goal of this research is to treat the root cause of post-traumatic osteoarthritis disease and prevent permanent joint damage, rather than mask the symptoms with painkillers later in life, as is currently done.
Techshot and MIT collaborated to adapt the tissue chip system developed by MIT for culture on the ISS in customized Techshot experiment modules. Once aboard the station, six of these modules will be loaded by astronauts into a Multi-use Variable-gravity Platform, or MVP, for processing.
The Techshot MVP is designed to conduct research in space at varying gravity levels with a wide variety of sample types, which are contained in experiment modules mounted on two internal 390 mm carousels. It can produce artificial gravity in 0.1 g increments, up to a maximum of 2.0 g. Each carousel can host up to six experiment modules, for a total of up to 12 possible separate samples inside each MVP unit. Two of the microwave oven-size MVP units are installed in the ISS.
For this mission, six experiment modules will be installed in a single MVP facility. Four will be installed on a stationary carousel and two control-group sample modules will be mounted on a spinning carousel, which will reproduce Earth’s gravity. This allows MIT to separate the effects of tissue culture in space from those associated with normal gravity and loads imparted by launch. The four chips in microgravity represent four different tissue conditions: normal, injured, normal with a drug treatment and injured with a drug treatment. The two in space at 1 g are: normal, and injured with a drug treatment.
Engineers at Techshot’s Greenville headquarters control MVP units from the company’s Payload Operations Control Center. The experiment will run for 22 days in MVP, with all samples returning to Earth in the same SpaceX capsule in which they were launched. SpaceX’s CRS-17 mission is scheduled to lift off May 1 at 3:59 a.m. from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Techshot’s catalog of available space research and manufacturing equipment will further expand this July when the company launches its BioFabrication Facility – the first American developed, owned and operated 3D bioprinter in space – aboard SpaceX resupply mission CRS-18.
Founded in 1988, Techshot provides the equipment and services that federal, institutional and industrial researchers use to make new discoveries in the life and physical sciences in space. The company handles all aspects of a research campaign for its customers. From the design and manufacture of spaceflight certified research hardware, to the integration of the hardware and its science payload, the company is a one-stop solutions provider. Its Space Act Agreement with NASA permits the company to commercially operate its equipment aboard the station, and it is an official ISS-National Lab Implementation Partner. Techshot is headquartered in Greenville, Indiana, and maintains an office at the Space Life Science Laboratory at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. https://www.Techshot.space.