AM for Space ExplorationBioprinting

CELLINK sends 3D printed stem cells to space

Partnership with Uppsala University seeks to study effects of microgravity on the body

The very niche subsegment of 3D bioprinting in space has had a development that we’re excited to report: Swedish bioprinting company CELLINK recently announced that it sent 3D bioprinted stem cells into space. The initiative, brought to fruition through a partnership with scientists from Uppsala University, aims to accelerate the development of a 3D neural stem cell system in order to provide vital insight on how changes in gravity effect cellular properties.

CELLINK is one of a handful of companies at the forefront of 3D bioprinting technologies, so it was no surprise to hear that it was interested in exploring the emerging opportunities brought about through bioprinting in space. Interestingly, the company’s project in partnership with Uppsala University is investigating a slightly different topic than other space/bioprinting research.

That is, most bioprinting in space efforts are seeking to produce complex 3D structures in space, which can be embedded with cells and cultured in a microgravity environment before being sent back to Earth. CELLINK, on the other hand, is interested in learning more about gravity alterations impact and effect cellular properties in the human body.

CELLINK stem cells space
CELLINK’s BIO X bioprinter

As the company explains: “Space exploration challenges the limits of human physiology, and advancing capabilities in spaceflight requires innovative solutions from frontline scientists across fields of physics, biology and medicine.”

Along with Uppsala University, CELLINK has sought to study the influence of microgravity and hypergravity on living systems. (Among other symptoms, astronauts who travel in space lose significant bone mass due to living in zero gravity). Insights from the research could lead to innovative solutions to make space travel healthier and more viable for the human body.

As part of the project, CELLINK leveraged its BIO X 3D printer and proprietary bioinks to create boundary cap neural crest stem cells—the cells for which were supplied by the university. Specifically, the stem cells were printed using CELLINK Bioink and CELLINK GelMA. Following a successful print, the stem cell samples were launched into space on June 24 on the Swedish Space Agency’s Master14. Watch this space for future developments on CELLINK’s bioprinting project as well as other bioprinting in space initiatives.

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Tess Boissonneault

Tess Boissonneault moved from her home of Montreal, Canada to the Netherlands in 2014 to pursue a master’s degree in Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam. It was during her time in Amsterdam that she became acquainted with 3D printing technology and began writing for a local additive manufacturing news platform. Now based in France, Tess has over two and a half years experience writing, editing and publishing additive manufacturing content with a particular interest in women working within the industry. She is an avid follower of the ever-evolving AM industry.

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