This synthetic bone pattern is an early step in the direction of making 3D bioprinting a sensible device for emergency medication in house. An ESA R&D effort goals to develop bioprinting strategies able to giving astronauts on an prolonged mission prepared entry to the ‘spare parts’ wanted for bone or pores and skin grafts, and even full inside organs.
3D bioprinting could quickly be sensible on Earth, and will assist meet the difficult circumstances of spaceflight. Astronauts in zero or low gravity lose bone density, for instance, so fractures could also be extra seemingly in orbit or on Mars.
Or, treating a burn often involves a graft of skin taken from a patient’s body – manageable on Earth with full hospital care but more risky in space, as the secondary damage may not heal easily.
Skin or bone can be bioprinted using a nutrient-rich ’bio-ink’ of human blood plasma, available from the astronauts themselves. By working upside down – in ‘minus 1g’ gravity – the team has shown they can probably do it in space.
This bone sample is part of the first selection of items on the 99 Objects of ESA ESTEC website, a set of intriguing, often surprising artifacts helping tell the story of more than half a century of activity at ESA’s technical heart.