Researchers at the UC San Diego Health Sanford Stem Cell Clinical Center announced today they had received a three-year, nearly $5 million award from NASA to develop and launch stem cell experiments aboard the International Space Station.
A collaboration between UCSD Health’s Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine and Space Tango will seek to develop a stem cell orbital research laboratory within the space station and launch three collaborative research projects within it.
Stem cells self-renew, generating more stem cells, and specialize into tissue-specific cells, such as blood, brain and liver cells, making them ideal for biological studies far from Earth’s resources, according to hospital staff.
The goal of the new effort is to use microgravity, and the unique properties of stem cells to better understand how space flight affects the human body. The studies also are designed to inform how aging, degenerative diseases, cancers and other conditions develop in a setting with increased exposure to ionizing radiation and pro-inflammatory factors.
The findings could speed the development of new therapeutics for a broad array of degenerative diseases on Earth.
“We envision that the next thriving ecosystem of commercial stem cell companies, the next nexus for biotechnology, could be created 250 miles overhead by the establishment of these capabilities on the ISS,” said Dr. Catriona Jamieson, director of the Sanford Stem Cell Clinical Center.
The project’s first flight to the space station is planned for mid-2021. The space station’s stem cell lab is planned to be fully operational and self-sustaining by 2025.
With hardware designed by Space