Stem Cells

in spaaaaaaaace:

“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.

2 thoughts on “Stem Cells”

  1. Harvesting a person’s stem cells and growing enough of them for use in therapies has proven difficult, though. Researchers have successfully grown mesenchymal stem cells, found in bone marrow, but growing sufficient quantities takes weeks. That could be too late for treatment of some conditions.

    Let’s say it couldn’t be mimiced but an effective way to grow stem cells in space was found. Considering how lucrative the health industry is, there could be a number of ways that launch providers and others in the space industry respond to the demand.

  2. ZBLAN fibers are interesting. As I linked in twitter, some authors studying microgravity markets found this to be the most plausible candidate for space manufacturing in the next decade. The very high value per kilogram of these fibers (even including the mass of the spindle on which they would be wound for transport back to Earth) makes the business case close, at least formally. Now they need to demonstrate it actually works.

    Sadly, I don’t think these fibers are good for fiber lasers, since they can’t take too much heat without transitioning back to the useless polycrystalline form. The telecom market is many orders of magnitude larger though (close to 2 billion km of fiber installed in that market so far.)

    ZBLAN has also been used for laser cooling (by anti-stokes scattering off rare earth dopants); I don’t know if microgravity manufacturing would add anything for that application. Laser cooling is a technology I like to keep an eye on because it would, at least in theory, allow laser beam-powered spacecraft to evade power limits set by conventional radiators.

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