Leveraging space to advance stem cell science and medicine – sciencedaily

Perhaps the secret to producing large amounts of stem cells more efficiently lies in the near zero gravity conditions of space. Scientists at Cedars-Sinai have discovered that microgravity has the potential to contribute to vital advances on Earth by facilitating the rapid mass production of stem cells.

A new article, edited by Cedars Sinai and published in the peer-reviewed journal Stem cell reports, highlights the main opportunities discussed at the 2020 Symposium on Biofabrication in Space to expand stem cell manufacturing in space.

Bioproduction – a type of stem cell production that uses biological materials such as microbes to produce substances and biomaterials suitable for use in preclinical, clinical, and therapeutic applications – may be more productive under microgravity conditions.

“We find that spaceflight and microgravity are a desirable location for bioproduction because they impart a number of very special properties to biological tissues and biological processes that can help mass-produce cells or other products of. a way you wouldn’t be able to do on Earth, ”said stem cell biologist Arun Sharma, PhD, researcher and head of a new research lab at the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute, from the Smidt Heart Institute and the Department of Biomedical Sciences.

“The past two decades have seen remarkable advances in regenerative medicine and exponential advances in space technologies allowing new opportunities to access and commercialize space,” he said.

Participants at the Virtual Space Symposium in December identified more than 50 potential business opportunities to conduct biofabrication work in space, according to the Cedars-Sinai article. The most promising fell into three categories: disease modeling, biofabrication, and stem cell products.

The first, disease modeling, is used by scientists to study diseases and possible treatments by replicating fully functioning structures – whether stem cells, organoids (miniature 3D structures derived from stem cells). that look like human tissue) or other tissue.

Investigators found that once the body is exposed to low-gravity conditions for long periods of time, it experiences accelerated bone loss and aging. By developing disease models based on this accelerated aging process, researchers can better understand the mechanisms of the aging process and disease progression.

“Not only can this work help astronauts, it can also lead us to make bone constructions or skeletal muscle constructions that could be applied to diseases like osteoporosis and other forms of accelerated bone aging and muscle wasting. that people are going through on Earth, ”Sharma said. , who is the corresponding author of the article.

Another topic much discussed at the symposium was biofabrication, which uses manufacturing processes to produce materials such as tissues and organs. 3D printing is one of the basic technologies of biofabrication.

A major problem with the production of these materials on Earth is gravity-induced density, 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, like organoids or heart tissue, in a way that cannot be replicated. on earth.

The third category concerns the production of stem cells and the understanding of the influence of microgravity on some of their fundamental properties. Some of these properties include potency, or the ability of a stem cell to renew itself, and differentiation, the ability of stem cells to transform into other types of cells.

Understanding some of the effects of spaceflight on stem cells can potentially lead to better ways to make large numbers of cells in the absence of gravity. Scientists at Cedars-Sinai will send stem cells to space early next year, working with NASA and a private entrepreneur, Space Tango, to test whether it is possible to produce large quantities in an environment low gravity.

“While we are still in the exploratory phase of some of this research, it is no longer the realm of science fiction,” Sharma said. “Over the next five years, we might see a scenario where we find cells or tissues that can be made in a way that just isn’t possible here on Earth. And I think it’s extremely exciting.”

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