Developing Human Tissue and Organs in Space, Dealing with Bone Density

In a June 6th meeting of the LaRouche Political Action Committee, speaker Brian Lantz reported on some amazing developments of biological research in space. Lantz is part of a team which recently published the LaRouche PAC “Plan to Reopen the U.S. Economy: The World Needs 1.5 Billion New, Productive Jobs“.

Mr. Lantz began his presentation by showing new technologies in designing machine tools, which involve the idea of “additive manufacturing”, or “what most people think of as 3-D manufacturing”. He began by discussing Space X, and then introduced applications in medical science, and the work of Techshot, a company from Greenville, Indiana, which has been collaborating with NASA since the 1980s.

Lantz’s first example was the Super Draco rocket engine used by Space X — “the first fully 3-D printed rocket engine”. Lantz demonstrated the use of “additive manufacturing” in the build up of the engine through horizontal layers which are then fused in a technique called “sintering”, or in this case metal laser “sintering”. “Think of how snowfall becomes a glacier; compressing with heat or pressure metal together or rock together, you form a solid material. It’s not melted; it’s compressed. This is sintering; this is a technique. This was utilized not only to produce the Super Draco engine, but the entire engine is made of a few parts made by this process. The outcome of this process is tougher, lighter, more durable, and because it reduces the number of parts to two or three or four, there are not as many interfaces between parts, in which friction and other problems can develop, and in which the machine can break down.”

The next example was the construction of a fuel tank: “These are built with direct metal sintering of the type we were talking about. Their proprietary engine, the simple version has three parts to it, versus at least 2500. That is a fuel tank being created, and this is another form of additive manufacturing. This is called direct energy deposition — like ‘deposit’. It uses an electron beam, and that arm — this is in the process of being built — that arm up there is depositing metal wire onto the surface which is then being melted, in this case actually melted into the layer underneath it.”

Lantz then introduced applications in medical science. “There’s another area, if I can touch on it briefly, because I think it’s important to add it into the picture, particularly now. We’re in the COVID-19 environment; we’re dealing with a deadly pandemic, and so medical science becomes more central to our thinking as we’re looking to treatments, therapies, and vaccines. We know that mankind has got to press forward into frontiers in the very small to make the breakthroughs required in medical science.

“Right now on the International Space Station, is the U.S. national laboratory there; we have a national laboratory on the ISS. One of the companies operating there, called Techshot, is operating a 3-D bio fabrication facility that recently completed the production of layers of heart tissue. In this case, obviously you’re not dealing with lasers, but you are dealing with feeds this time of living cells encapsulated in hydrogels or vascular material and fed in, layer upon layer, across an area. Then a layer on top of that and so forth. Then over time, stabilized in space, these layers then grow together and reinforce each other. This process is now at work on the Space Station. In fact, Techshot sells space on the Space Station for this purpose, but they’re already running out of room. So, contracts are being made with other companies that are intending to send up space laboratories for further work in such areas. This is just one example of what’s going on right now in the bio-sciences related to additive manufacturing — 3-D printing.

“Other areas, just briefly to mention them, include regenerative structures for bones. Bone grafting involves artificial material that doesn’t grow, but if you can implant living materials made from stem cells or from the patient’s own cells, then they can fuse and grow into that bone’s structure. Cartilage, again from stem cells or the patient’s own cells, can be injected into areas where the cartilage has been worn away, and will reproduce. This is in process; it’s being used on animals now in trials. Skin grafting; corneas; ultimately heart replacements. All of this is going on, on the frontiers where the life sciences are intersecting with the bio-engineering and related areas.”

To view the entire meeting, see: The Principle of ‘Power’: How The LaRouche Idea of Creative Reason Will Change the Physical Economy Brian Lantz is introduced at 17:28 into the tape.

These are stunning reports, and lead us to look more in to Techshot’s work on developing human tissue in space through additive methods.

MORE ON TECHSHOT’S WORK IN SPACE — BONE DENSITY AND CREATING ORGANS

Techshot has been working as a private company with NASA for almost 30 years. Regarding the impact of their work, and the work of other researchers they have made possible in space that will effect health conditions back home on Earth, we will mention their 2012 Bone Densitometer Project, and osteoporosis. “Astronauts can lose between one and two percent of their total bone mass for every consecutive month spent living in space. Crew members who might spend six to nine months traveling to Mars, for example, are at a higher risk of experiencing a life-threatening or mission-compromising fracture once they land and surface operations begin. ‘Along with muscle atrophy and radiation exposure, bone loss is one of the tall poles in the tent effecting crew health on long duration missions,’ said Techshot Chief Scientist Eugene Boland, Ph.D. ‘It’s one of the key problems we must solve before we can confidently plan for the exploration of other planets by humans.’ Based on bone scans taken pre- and post-flight, NASA-funded researchers have developed exercise regimens and pharmaceutical countermeasures that are having a positive impact on astronaut bone loss during typical six-month stays aboard the station. But because no scans of people or animals have been completed during a mission, what’s less understood is when the application of a given countermeasure would be most effective.  The Techshot Bone Densitometer is expected to be an essential tool in providing that missing information.” “As a result, researchers also hope to develop medical technology that will combat bone density loss on Earth, helping millions of seniors who suffer from osteoporosis.”

Their website then discusses the project of producing human tissue in space, the experiments mentioned in Brian Lantz’s June 6th presentation. They ask: “Why bioprint in space?” and reply:

“While researchers have seen some success with the 3D printing of bones on Earth, the manufacture of soft human tissue, such as blood vessels and muscle, has proven more difficult. On Earth, when attempting to print with soft, easily flowing biomaterials that better mimic the body’s natural environment, tissues collapse under their own weight – resulting in little more than a puddle. But if these same materials are used in space in a microgravity environment, 3D-printed soft tissues will maintain their shape.”

“”Without proper conditioning, space-printed tissues also would collapse if immediately returned to Earth. Operating in space along with BFF [BioFabrication Facility Printer] is a Techshot-developed cell-culturing system that strengthens the tissue over time, to the point where it becomes viable and self-supporting once back in the Earth’s gravity. Whereas the tissue printing process may take less than a day, the strengthening process can take 12 to 45 days, depending on the tissue.”

Techshot announces their goal of supplying organs for human transplant on earth: “”The challenges are many, but the potential benefits far outweigh them. It will require patience. But Techshot has been building space research equipment for more than 30 years and it understands very well how to continually improve processes. Besides the technical challenges that must be overcome, Techshot expects years of work to achieve regulatory approval for its space-manufactured tissue. The company wants BFF to benefit patients on Earth as quickly as possible, which is why Techshot allows other research groups to use it in space. The prospect of creating whole organs in space is real – but still many years away.”

“The long-term success of BFF as a manufacturing system brings an array of prospective medical breakthroughs, including:

  • reducing the organ donor shortage (there are about 113,000 people on transplant waiting lists)
  • creating patient-specific replacement tissues or patches
  • the possibility of transplant recipients receiving organs comprised of their own stem cells, thus reducing likelihood of rejection, and reducing long-term costs associated with a lifetime of anti-rejection drugs, and perhaps additional transplants
  • eliminating the requirement that someone must first die in order for another person to receive a new heart or other organ
  • testing drug efficacy using Techshot-manufactured tissue.”
WHY NOT CREATE ANOTHER LUNG — nSCRYPT

mScrypt is the Florida based company working with Techshot on this project, and creator of the 3D BioFabrication Facility bioprinter, the BFF. Techshot’s website concludes: “nScrypt CEO Ken Church has a very personal stake in BFF. Twenty-five years ago his daughter was born with one lung and was given a 10 percent chance of survival. She survived, and today lives an active and full life despite her missing lung. “But why,” Church said, “can’t we make her another lung.” Twenty-four years ago, of course, Ken’s question was a non-starter. Creating a lung was impossible. Today, the answer to the question is much different. While assembling a human lung or other organ is still years away, BFF presents a roadmap. ‘At a conceptual level, it’s not that tricky,’ said Church. ‘This BFF team knows how to get there. But it will require baby steps and patience. I have no doubt someday BFF will provide someone like my daughter with a second lung.'”

See nScrypt’s video on the space launch here.

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