“Stem cells are inherently designed to remain at a constant number,” Zubair explains. “We need to grow them faster, but without changing their characteristics.”
The first phase of the investigation, he adds, is answering the question: “Do stem cells grow faster in space and can we grow them in such a manner that they are safe to use in patients?”
Investigators will examine the space-grown cells in an effort to understand the mechanism behind microgravity’s effects on them. The long-term goal is to learn how to mimic those effects and develop a safe and reliable way to produce stem cells in the quantities needed.
Just once, it would be nice to discover something that can be done in space that can’t be later mimiced on the ground. I hope that Made In Space has found one.
And of course, as I point out in the book, this kind of research could be accelerated if they added one more crewperson to ISS. The only reason they haven’t is lifeboat requirement, something that doesn’t exist in Antarctica.