A device created by Greenville-based Techshot Inc. is one step closer to heading into space. The company says the Techshot BioFabrication Facility, which is designed to 3D print human tissue in space, successfully passed testing at a NASA facility in Alabama and is expected to be sent to the International Space Station this summer. Rich Bolling, vice president of corporate advancement for Techshot, says the company is currently putting the final touches on the BFF before sending it off for launch.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Bolling said the BFF is a suite of equipment that allows for the 3D printing of human tissue in space, as well as the growth and culturing of that tissue once it’s printed. He says the idea is that at some point, those tissues could be transplanted into humans on Earth.
Bolling says the complex tissues have a lot of cells and when they’re printed on Earth, they collapse under the weight on the planet’s 1G gravity. He says Techshot wants to print and grow the tissues in space because it is more conducive to making sure the cells and tissues can grow and prosper. Bolling adds the "culturing" system in the BFF will make the tissue strong enough to survive re-entry to Earth.
Bolling says they are hoping, after a period of several weeks, to see thick, living tissue. The company is also participating in NASA’s Vascular Tissue Challenge, in which companies must manufacture a 1-centimeter thick tissue that can survive for a specified period of time. The first three successful teams will share in a $500,000 prize.
"Certainly, winning that money will be great, but our own success criteria mirrors that," said Bolling. "We want to print some thick tissue and culture it and bring it back down to Earth as a living piece of thick tissue and if we’re successful with that, we intend to continue to increase the complexity of the tissues that we print. But this first test of a good piece of thick tissue is really what we’re looking for."
Techshot has had a number of innovations sent into space over the years. Bolling says Indiana has been a good place for the company to develop space payloads for a number of reasons.
"Obviously, we’ve got some terrific universities in this state that are producing top notch graduates not only in the STEM fields. Our two co-founders are graduates of STEM degree programs at Purdue and at the University of Evansville," said Bolling. "I think also the cost of working here in Indiana is very favorable to own a business and to run a technology company. The state so much more cost effective than some of the cities you might expect where NASA has centers."