The International Space Station could become an organ laboratory for transplanting in the future. Making them in orbit can be the solution to the shortage of organs.
The International Space Station could become the laboratory in which organs could be made for transplants in space in the future. In the year 2017 some 7,600 heart transplants were performed around the world, and thousands of organs are still missing for people who are on waiting lists to be given a life-saving transplant. Many of them die in these waiting lists due to the lack of available organs to carry out operations.
For that reason they began to make investigations to produce these organs in laboratories, but it is really complicated that the organs grow without a structure that does that they do not collapse during their development.
That is to say, to eliminate that subjection when the heart has already been completely manufactured, is being something difficult to realize. That’s why Techsot, the space technology company, says that zero gravity could be the solution to this problem.
Thus, inside the International Space Station there is an effective gravity, which is known as microgravity. That is, the organs could grow without any structure that holds them, according to the vice president of corporate advancement of Techsot Rich Boling.
“Our ultimate goal is to provide a solution to the organ shortage that causes an average of 20 people per day in the US alone. UU die waiting for an organ transplant, “explained Boling. “The launch of our Bio-Manufacturing Facilities to the International Space Station is the first step,” says Boling.
Techshot’s bio-fabrication device is the size of a microwave, and uses 3D printing techniques to create patches to repair the heart with the use of patient stem cells.
This device would be sent to the Space Station on SpaceX’s CRX-18 mission, which will take place in May of this year. The first year the device will be installed to verify that it works, before starting the tests.
“Then we will bring BFF to the ground and make the necessary modifications to optimize it based on what we have learned during the test phase; then we will send it again with the aim of manufacturing more and more complex fabrics”, said Boling.
It is expected that before 2025 they won’t be able to manufacture complete organs in space, and also, get the regulation of the organs manufactured could mean another 10 years, they say from Techshot.
The SpaceX company of Elon Musk is making the costs of space travel considerably reduced, but even so the cheapest rocket to travel to space costs almost 60 million dollars per mission.
Despite these costs, Boling states that “an organ made in space from the patient’s own stem cells will not require anti-rejection medications. Therefore, it is expected that the total lifetime cost of a single transplant will be less for the patient who receives an organ manufactured in space than the alternative. “
In 2020, new facilities known as ST-42 will be launched into space by the company Space Tango, which could be the ones that host this project, since the Space Station does not have much space for it.
Each ST-42 will be two meters wide, and will be in orbit between 10 and 30 days and then return to Earth with the products manufactured. Thus, if the problem of gravity is eliminated, there will be fewer imperfections in the manufacturing process.
Another example of manufacturing of this type would be the optical fiber called ZBLAN, which is a fluoride glass that can be produced without impurities, and which has a yield of 10 to 100 times greater than the traditional silica optical fiber.
Therefore, if this material is made in orbit, it will not have to withstand the forces driven by gravity like convection, which causes crystals to form in the fibers and damages the quality of the signal. That is, in microgravity, a more efficient and pure fiber could be produced.