2017 Tissue Chips in Space Projects

In June 2017, NCATS funded five institutions, in collaboration with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, to develop tissue chips to advance novel technologies to improve human health here on Earth. The initial two-year projects are part of a four-year collaboration to use tissue chip technology for translational research onboard the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory.

Click on the links below to learn more about the 2017 awarded projects:

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Lung Host Defense in Microgravity

Principal Investigators: George Scott Worthen, M.D., and Dongeun Huh, M.D.

Implementation Partners: Space Technology and Advanced Research Systems, Inc., SpacePharma, Inc., and University of Pennsylvania

Grant Number: 1-UG3-TR-002198-01

There is a link between infections and the health of our immune system. Infections are commonly reported onboard spacecraft where exposure to microgravity, the condition in which people or objects appear to be weightless, negatively affects immune system function, but the mechanisms responsible are not well understood. The goals of this project are to test engineered microphysiological systems, or tissue chips, that model the airway and bone marrow; and to combine the models to emulate and understand the integrated immune responses of the human respiratory system in microgravity.

First Flight: May 4, 2019

Learn more about this project in NIH RePORTER.

Emulate, Inc., Boston

Organs-on-Chips as a Platform for Studying Effects of Microgravity on Human Physiology: Blood-Brain-Barrier-Chip in Health and Disease

Principal Investigators: Christopher D. Hinojosa, Emulate, Inc., and Katia P. Karalis, D.S., M.D., Children’s Hospital Boston

Implementation Partner: Space Tango, Inc.

Grant Number: 1-UG3-TR-002188-01

The objective of this project is to validate, optimize and further develop Emulate’s proprietary Organs-On-Chips technology platform for experimentation with human cells in space. The intent is to develop an automated platform and software to accelerate experimentation in space that will become available to the broader scientific community for studies in human physiology and disease in space. The scientific findings will provide new advancements for Earth studies in human disease and drug discovery. The blood-brain-barrier-chip, to be studied in microgravity, is a prototype for an organ system centrally positioned in homeostasis, and thus, involved in the pathogenesis of multiple types of disease including neurodegeneration, traumatic injury and cancer.

First Flight: May 4, 2019
Second Flight: December 21, 2021

Learn more about this project in NIH RePORTER.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge

Cartilage-Bone-Synovium Microphysiological System: Musculoskeletal Disease Biology in Space

Principal Investigators: Alan J. Grodzinsky, Sc.D., M.S., and Murat Cirit, Ph.D.

Implementation Partner: Techshot, Inc.

Grant Number: 1-UG3-TR-002186-01

This research focuses on a cartilage-bone-synovium joint tissue chip model to study the effects of space flight on musculoskeletal disease biology, motivated by post-traumatic osteoarthritis and bone loss. The effects of pharmacological agents to ameliorate bone and cartilage degeneration will be tested on Earth and in the International Space Station, using a quantitative and high-content experimental and computational approach.

First Flight: May 4, 2019
Second Flight: Dec. 6, 2020

Learn more about this project in NIH RePORTER.

University of California, San Francisco

Microgravity as Model for Immunological Senescence and its Impact on Tissue Stem Cells and Regeneration

Principal Investigators: Sonja Schrepfer, M.D., Ph.D., Tobias Deuse, M.D., and Heath J. Mills, Ph.D.

Implementation Partner: Space Technology and Advanced Research Systems, Inc.

Grant Number: 1-UG3-TR-002192-01

Many space-related physiological changes resemble those observed during cellular aging, including defects in bone healing, loss of cardiovascular and neurological capacity, and altered immune function. This project aims to investigate the relationship between an individual’s immune aging and healing outcomes, and to investigate the biology of aging from two directions—not only during its development in microgravity conditions but also during recovery after returning to Earth’s environment.

First Flight: Dec. 5, 2018
Second Flight: July 14, 2022

Learn more about this project in NIH RePORTER.

University of Washington, Seattle

Effects of Microgravity on the Structure and Function of Proximal and Distal Tubule Microphysiological System

Principal Investigators: Jonathan Himmelfarb, M.D., and Edward J. Kelly, M.S., Ph.D.

Implementation Partner: BioServe Space Technologies

Grant Number: 1-UG3-TR-002178-01

When healthy, the body’s two kidneys work together to filter about 110 to 140 liters of blood, producing about 1 to 2 liters of urine every day. Dehydration or diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure impair kidney function and result in serious medical conditions including protein in the urine and kidney stones. Notably, these conditions are more common and follow an accelerated time-course in people living in microgravity. This project will send a kidney model to the International Space Station to understand how microgravity and other factors affect kidney function. Such discoveries can be used to design better treatments for proteinuria, osteoporosis and kidney stones on Earth.

First Flight: May 4, 2019
Second Flight: June 3, 2021

Learn more about this project in NIH RePORTER.