3D Bioprinting in Space?

The idea of 3D printing tissues and organs is not a new one as we have been attempting different avenues and strategies on Earth for decades. While we continue to push and understand its capabilities on Earth, exploring properties of 3D biomaterials in space could allow scientists to make more discoveries of this unique technology for the benefit of humanity on the ground, as well for its future as an interplanetary species. 

Figure 1. Allevi’s Plug and PlayEarth Bioprinting Platforms

Allevi was started with the mission to make it easy to design, engineer, and manufacture 3D tissues. 5 years ago, when we began, 3D bioprinters were large, clunky, and prohibitively expensive. After creating the world’s first desktop bioprinter and years of painstaking commitment, we have become one of the world leaders in desktop 3D bioprinting. Allevi builds powerful, versatile, and easy to use platforms that allow users to print highly complex systems in an easy step by step process. (Figure 1) As we continue to push the boundaries of the biofabrication industry, we believe there is tremendous potential for several innovative products on the ISS for the scientific community.

Figure 2. Zeto G Project

One of the most fascinating aspects of doing science in space is the constant access to microgravity, which means an environment without any gravity. We believe that microgravity could enable the creation of complex shapes with low viscosity biomaterials currently not possible on Earth. For example, if you take water, a low viscosity material, and try to squeeze it out of a straw, it becomes a puddle because gravity is acting on it. Collagen is the most commonly found biomaterial in the body, especially in soft tissues. Collagen, in its natural form, acts like water becoming a puddle. However, collagen is used across biology to achieve more physiological complexity. 

In bioprinting, achieving patterns is challenging without unwanted additives that give stiffness to materials. We think microgravity could help bridge this gap of printing a watery like substance, but still, get desired geometries. It can help create patterned soft tissues given microgravity will not deform the materials into a puddle. 

Figure 3. Zero G Extruder

Our vision is to provide scientists from academia and industry a more accessible way to test biomaterials in space. We strongly believe that the addition of a plug-and-play biomaterial extruder to the suite of hardware available on the ISS will help lower the barrier of entry to performing bioprinting in space. Allevi has hundreds of users around the world who could run experiments to understand how 3D biomaterials in microgravity compare to that in gravity back here on Earth.

3D bioprinting is here to stay as a new ability to manufacture tissues and biology, especially on a customized basis. The world will continue to face challenges in medicine and healthcare from bringing down the cost of developing a drug to understanding how to create more autologous implants. 3D bioprinting in the 21st century is poised to play a key role in providing solutions to these global challenges. On top of this, space innovation offers tremendous opportunity to accelerate our understanding to these challenges back here on Earth. By providing an easy to use the platform to launch and test biomaterial printing, Allevi hopes to empower several discoveries and commercial activity that will benefit not only humanity today but as well as it is future beyond the stars.

About Allevi:

Allevi creates tools and solutions to design, engineer, and build with life. Our 3D bioprinters and bioinks are used around the world to find solutions to humanity’s most difficult problems – to cure disease, to test novel drugs, and to eliminate the organ transplant waiting list.

Founded in 2014, our mission is to make it easy to design and engineer 3D tissues.  We created our desktop 3D bioprinters to be the most versatile, powerful, and easy-to-use bioprinters on the market. Allevi is trusted by leading researchers and industry giants in hundreds of labs globally in the fields of tissue engineering, organ-on-a-chip research, pharmaceutical validation, biomaterial development, and regenerative medicine.

About the Author:

Ricky Solorzano, Co-Founder and CEO – Ricky guides the vision, strategy, and day to day of the company. He has been obsessed with tissue engineering for 10 years, studied Bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania and created the world’s first desktop 3D bioprinter out of his dorm room. He has been influential in creating the biofabrication industry and has been a Forbes 30 under 30, Inc 30 under 30, and Business Insider 100: The Creators #65. Ricky will be speaking at the 3D Printing in Space panel at the upcoming 3DHEALS2020.

Related Articles:

The Yellow Brick Road of 3D Bioprinting

Interview with Kevin Caldwell, CEO of Ossium Health, Creation of A Stem Cell Bank

Interview with Taciana Pereira, 3D Bioprinting and Allevi

Printing the Future: An Introduction to Additive Manufacturing in Space

Interview with Rachel Clemens, Biofabrication In Space

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