NG-20 Payloads January 29, 2024

NG-20 Payloads

Scheduled to launch on January 30 at 12:07 p.m. EST from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, FL. Space Tango partner investigations will be making their departure for the International Space Station (ISS) for Northrop Grumman’s 20th Commercial Resupply Services Mission (NG-20). As we get closer to the final countdown, we invite you to take a look at the amazing science our partners are exploring with us.

Study of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs) in Microgravity

Cedars-Sinai | Principal Investigator: Clive Svendsen, Ph.D.; Dhruv Sareen, Ph.D.

Study of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs) in Microgravity (Production of Stem Cells for Personalized Medicine) aim (iPSCs) cells and the neural progenitor cells they generate. iPSCs may be created from any person of any age simply by taking a skin or blood sample, isolating cells, giving the cells specific factors, and driving them back to an embryonic state. iPSCs are immortal (can be grown forever) and have the capacity to create any tissue of the human body. iPSCs are ideal for creating and testing potential treatments that can be exactly tailored to the individual.

Why Microgravity?

Growing iPSC cells for use in treating humans is a complex process. On Earth, there are problems with efficient growth and division of stem cells (proliferation) and then turning them into specific cell types of the human body such as beating heart cells and neurons in the brain (differentiation). Enhancing this process is beneficial to the human population if it results in improved stem cells.

If stem cells can be grown more effectively in microgravity and if the process can be scaled up for the biomanufacturing of key cellular products that can treat humans, this new capability will be important for people on Earth.

Layer-by-Layer Assembly of Protein-Based Artificial Retinas in Microgravity

LambdaVision | Principal Investigator: Nicole Wagner, Ph.D.

This investigation’s goal is to leverage microgravity to improve upon layer-by-layer deposition to produce the first protein-based artificial retina to restore meaningful vision for patients with advanced retinal degenerative diseases, including retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

This automated Protein-Based Artificial Retina Manufacturing CubeLab will demonstrate the feasibility of manufacturing a pilot-scale protein-polymer-based layer-by-layer deposition process to develop artificial retinas in low-Earth orbit. During this flight, the LambdaVision-Space Tango partnership will collect data to optimize processes for science, automated hardware, and a regulatory process that will establish a baseline for future biomedical applications for in-space manufacturing.

Why Microgravity?

The microgravity environment of space can improve the homogeneity and performance of the artificial retina technology compared to prototypes produced on Earth. Microgravity production paradigms have been shown to enhance the three-dimensional assembly of thin films due to decreased solute aggregation, a reduction of intralayer defects, efficient binding between layers, and an increase in the optical clarity of the films.

Compartment Cartilage Tissue Construct

Unviersity of Connecticut | Principal Investigator: Yupeng Chen, Ph.D.

The Compartment Cartilage Tissue Construct investigation aims to develop an engineered cartilage tissue construct (3D cartilage cell culture) that maintains the healthy functioning of cartilage cells over the long term even in the absence of biomechanical loading and evaluate regenerative medicine solutions (including nanomaterials and therapeutic ribonucleic acids) to treat osteoarthritis and other cartilage degeneration diseases. This investigation uses biological materials that mimic DNA to develop a scaffold for regenerating cartilage tissues and tests the effect of a specific RNA on cartilage growth in space.

Why Microgravity?

Microgravity offers unique advantages for studying molecular processes such as cartilage growth and osteoarthritis progression. Findings from this study could contribute to developing methods for maintaining cartilage health in future long-duration space travel.