An Indiana company is part of a team that has created cardiac and vascular structures in zero gravity using a 3D bioprinter. Greenville-based Techshot Inc. says the effort could ultimately result in the ability to "manufacture" organs in space for patients on Earth.
The NASA contractor is partnering with Florida-based 3D bioprinter manufacturer nScrypt and Kentucky-based Bioficial Organs Inc. on the project. The team tested its prototype this week 30,000 feet over the Gulf of Mexico.
Techshot Chief Operating Officer John Vellinger says the hardware worked "flawlessly," adding that the companies are "eager to take the technology to the next level."
The companies will use data from the flight to develop a smaller bioprinter. Vellinger says the team hopes to operate the printer autonomously aboard a commercial Blue Origin space capsule in January. In 2018, the companies plan to finish a version designed for the International Space Station that is capable of printing thicker and more complex tissues.
nScrypt Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Church says the new technology is "like drawing with a fine-point pen rather than a crayon." In a release, he said, "Some of the tips on our 3D electronics printers are nearly as small as a single human cell."
The team has big plans once the technology is aboard the ISS. The companies say the first tissue attempted on the station will be a beating human heart patch.