May 11, 2021

Create artificial skin and immunity, the challenges of the new crew on the Space Station

Archive image of the International Space Station

Archive image of the International Space Station

The four astronauts who will travel to the International Space Station (ISS) this Thursday in SpaceX’s Dragon capsule they will have six “very busy” months in studies on artificial skin and analysis of human immunity, among others, taking advantage of the microgravity of space, the US space agency reported on Monday POT.

The SpaceX Crew-2 crew, which is scheduled to depart this Thursday at 6.11 am (10.11 GMT) from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida (USA), will be in charge of many scientific tasksDavid Brady, from the ISS science program, explained at a press conference. Brady stated that the departure and arrival on US soil of these missions, the second commercial from SpaceX and NASA, and increased travel “doubles” the capacity and possibilities of science that occurs in the ISS.

Crew-2 is made up of NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, as well as Akihiko Hoshide of the Japanese space agency JAXA and Frenchman Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency (ESA).


The Tissue engineering it is one of the disciplines that benefit from the ISS, Liz Warren, senior program director of the US National Laboratory for the ISS, explained at the press conference. Warren explained that he does not know why, but microgravity seems to speed up “communication” within tissues and can be crucial for the creation of artificial skin and regeneration of lung tissue, among others.

Similarly, he pointed out that it facilitates clinical studies for future medicines in the field of tissue engineering, which uses a combination of cells, engineering and materials to restore, maintain, enhance or replace biological tissues. He stressed that microgravity offers “hope” because it allows cells to grow without scaffolds and in ways that mimic tissues within the human body.

Similarly, studies by Lucie Low, from the National Institutes of Health (INS), will make use of microgravity to test the potential effects of drugs on tissues known as ‘Tissue Chips’ and understand human diseases. He explained that these are complex bioengineered 3D models that mimic the structure and function of human organ systems. Low emphasized that microgravity “speeds up” the process inside cells that would take much longer on Earth.

Immunity here and there

For his part, Jain Shantanu, a student at New York University in Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates), will also analyze how human immunity works in space compared to how it does on Earth. About the complex experiment, Shantanu said at the press conference that the main challenge is that the cells that he will send to the ISS “arrive healthy, that they do not die.”

The mission is the second commercial, which will relieve the SpaceX Crew-1 that departed from the Cape Canaveral base in November last year and also the first in which two astronauts from NASA partner space agencies participate. The relief of the crew will also continue with the image record of our planet from the ISS, which accumulates more than 3.5 million photographs, “one of the oldest records of how the Earth has changed over time.”

William Stefanov, ISS program scientist for Earth observations, said that this catalog is used by other agencies to analyze tropical storms, volcanoes and all kinds of phenomena natural.

This summer, the astronauts of the ISS will also contribute to the change of the first two stages of solar panels, out of a total of six, that seek to increase the energy supply of the ISS, according to NASA.

The Crew-2 mission, the second to fly the Dragon space capsule to the ISS, is part of NASA’s commercial crew program, in conjunction with aerospace companies Boeing and SpaceX. The return and landing of the Crew-1 mission, which departed last November, is scheduled for April 28.


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