Astronauts use tissue chips in space

NAVS has long supported research efforts utilizing human-relevant models, such as tissue chips, which are designed to replicate the structure and function of human tissues and organs. These chips also have the potential to reduce, and even replace, the need for animal testing in many areas of research.

While experimentation with these devices is making incredible progress here on Earth, exciting research using tissue chips is also taking place high above our planet.

The Tissue Chips in Space initiative, a collaboration between the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Center for Advancing Translational Science (NCATS) and NASA, began about two years ago in an effort to understand how microgravity affects the human body. Animals have typically been sent to space for these kinds of experiments, so it is encouraging to see the use of sophisticated, more human-relevant alternatives.

The initiative, which is now in its second phase, focuses on experiments designed to demonstrate the functional use of tissue chips. Because there is evidence that the weightless conditions of space can accelerate parts of the aging process, some of the studies will investigate aging.

In December, several tissue chips used to model parts of the human immune system were sent to the International Space Station. Soon, even more tissue chips, including those modeling the blood-brain barrier, bone and cartilage, kidneys, and lungs, will also make their way to space. Once astronauts carry out experiments using these tools in the weightless conditions of the space station, they will freeze the tissue chips so that they can later be analyzed back on Earth for changes pertaining to aging.

NAVS is encouraged to see human-relevant tissue chips being used to answer scientific questions in space and is very interested in continuing to fund the use of these tools back on Earth. Through the International Foundation for Ethical Research, NAVS has supported the development of several tissue chips and would like to be able to fund even more research using these tools during the upcoming grant cycle, which will begin accepting pre-proposals this month.

If you know of any graduate student researchers who are developing alternatives to the use of animals in science, please let them know of this important funding opportunity.

And if you would like to help fund the development of human-relevant alternatives that can replace the use of animals in science, please make a donation today. 

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This entry was posted in News and tagged on January 14, 2019.
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