Scientists are taking a significant step towards future deep space exploration by developing 3D-printed hearts intended for the International Space Station (ISS). Researchers aim to understand how artificial organs withstand harsh space radiation through a program called Pulse. Funded by the European Innovation Council, the Pulse project seeks to create printed materials to make long-term space travel safer while advancing medical breakthroughs on Earth, particularly in cancer therapies involving exposure to intense radiation. Using magnetic and acoustic levitation to manipulate bioprinted organs could provide crucial insights into space exploration and human health.
The Pulse project has dual benefits, advancing space research and Earth’s healthcare. Bioprinted organoids that replicate human organs can reduce reliance on animal testing and provide more accurate platforms for studying diseases and drug responses. Previous experiments have explored the effects of microgravity on cardiac tissue samples and studied astronauts’ cardiovascular health in space. The new approach aims to send complete artificial hearts for better replication and controllability.
Researchers will employ “magnetic levitation” and “acoustic levitation” techniques to manipulate bioprinted organs effectively. These advanced methods allow precise control of cells and hydrogels, ensuring the specimens closely resemble honest hearts. The findings from cardiac space studies, including PULSE, hold promise for humanity’s dreams of deep space exploration and potential Mars habitation. Understanding how hearts respond to space conditions is a crucial piece of the puzzle for successful space missions.
In the quest for space travel to distant celestial bodies, 3D printing and bioprinting technologies offer invaluable tools to address the challenges of long-term space exploration. As the research in 3D-printed hearts progresses, humanity moves closer to realizing the dream of venturing into the cosmos and unlocking new frontiers for human health and space discovery.