Three-dimensional Bioprinting in Space

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Nanotechnology development allows for the management of living cells, tissue spheroids and synthetic microscaffolds by using magnetic fields. This, in turn, leads to attempts to create magnetic bioprinters.

However, the first attempts to create magnetic bioprinters showed that terrestrial gravitation represents a significant limitation. It is reasonable to assume that in a gravity-free environment, magnetic and diamagnetic levitation will allow not only so-called “formative” biofabrication of three-dimensional (3-D) tissue constructions, but even programmable self-assembly of 3-D tissue constructions in a controlled magnetic field. The space magnetic 3-D bioprinter, which can manage tissue spheroids in microgravity, is a practical implementation of the new perspective concept of formative biofabrication. Microgravity biofabrication on the basis of magnetic forces transforms the technology of 3-D bioprinting and opens real opportunities for programmable self-assembly of tissue and organ constructions of tissue spheroids in 3-D space without solid scaffolds. Formative fabrication and programmable self-assembly are revolutionary manufacturing and biofabrication technologies of the 21st century. Today, there are three main 3-D bioprinting technologies: extrusion, inkjet and laser-based bioprinting. These methods have common limitations such as slow speed and the inability to create 3-D constructs with complex geometry. Therefore, new approaches such as acoustic or magnetic bioprinting using patterned physical fields for predictable cells spreading will evolve.

The main idea is to use microgravity as a co-factor of bioprinting technology. This concept means using a scaffold-free, nozzle-free and label-free (i.e., without using magnetic nanoparticles) approach called formative biofabrication, which has the edge over classical bottom-up additive manufacturing. This technology could be commonly used for space radiation studies to provide long-term crewed space flights, including the moon and Mars programs.

3D Bioprinting Solutions developed a novel space 3-D bioprinter (see image below), which will enable rapid, label-free 3-D biofabrication of 3-D tissue and organ constructs in the condition of microgravity by using magnetic fields. Meanwhile, a sophisticated holistic cuvette system for delivering living objects to the ISS, performing biofabrication, and transferring bioprinted constructs back to Earth has been developed.

Rapid biofabrication of 3-D organ constructs of thyroid gland and cartilage using tissue spheroids (i.e., thyreospheres and chondrospheres) in the conditions of natural space microgravity will be launched during space experiments. After the return of bioprinted constructs to Earth, histological tests will be conducted to examine the internal structure.

The 3-D bioprinter will become a part of ISS scientific equipment for conducting further international experiments by any scientific groups and companies interested in 3-D bioprinting technology. That means we are developing a novel shared research infrastructure for unique biomedical research on the ISS.

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