International Space Station has always been home to a multitude of scientific experiments. One of their latest is unusual: It includes artificial human body parts and will help the scientists aboard the station learn even more about the effects of microgravity on the human body.
Knowing how the body will react is key for some of the missions NASA has planned for the future, likes those that will go further into space.
The experiment will last for four years and is part of a collaboration between the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space.
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Now, there won't be spleens and livers free-floating around the space station. Instead, these "organs" will be small transparent slides, each about the size of an AA battery, with microfluidic channels running throughout that will recreate the effect of blood and airflow. These channels will be lined with the cells of an organ to be studied.
The cells will grow in three dimensions and won't flatten on a slide like they would on Earth. Each organ chip focus on a specific condition that astronauts often face in microgravity, including respiratory infections, bone deterioration, and cellular aging and recovery
The kidney-on-a-chip model will help show the effect of microgravity affects kidney function but also, the data and results could potentially be applied to kidney-related conditions, like kidney stones. Similarly, the brain-on-a-chip model will be studied neurodegeneration which will help astronauts as well as people dealing with certain neurological conditions back on Earth.