Why are scientists trying to manufacture organs in space? (design)


EXCERPT: . . . To build organized tissues in the lab, scientists use scaffolds to provide a surface for cells to attach based on a predetermined rigid shape. For example, an artificial kidney needs a structure, or scaffold, of a certain shape for kidney cells to grow on. Indeed, this strategy helps the tissue to organize in the early stages but creates problems in the long run, such as eventual immune reactions to these synthetic scaffolds or inaccurate structures.

By contrast, in weightless conditions, cells can freely self-organize into their correct three-dimensional structure without the need for a scaffold substrate. By removing gravity from the equation, we researchers might learn new ways of building human tissues [...] mimicking their natural cellular arrangement in an artificial setting. While this is not exactly what happens in the womb (after all the womb is also subject to gravity), weightless conditions does give us an advantage.

[...] But there are other reasons why we should manufacture organs in space. Long-term space missions create a series of physiological alterations in the body of astronauts. While some of these alterations are reversible with time, others are not, compromising future human spaceflights. Studying astronauts’ bodies before and after their mission can reveal what goes wrong on their organs, but provides little insights on the mechanisms responsible for the observed alterations. Thus, growing human tissues in space can complement this type of investigation and reveal ways to counteract it... (MORE - details)

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