Tissue chips are miniature model systems of complex human organs and tissues. About the size of a thumb drive, tissue chips are designed to imitate the structure and function of human organs, such as the lungs, liver, and heart. Tissue chips allow researchers to study how cells respond to stresses, drugs, and genetic changes.
Research has shown that symptoms of accelerated aging – such as muscle deterioration, osteoporosis (bone loss), reduced cardiopulmonary function, and immune deficiency – can occur after prolonged exposure to microgravity in space.
Ongoing research on the ISS U.S. National Lab studies the effect of reduced gravity on human organs at the cell and tissue levels. This work is contributing to our understanding of the process of aging and could reveal molecular targets that can slow that process.
Tissue chips provide a human model to help scientists understand how tissue and organs develop in space and the impact microgravity and radiation may have on human physiology during future long-duration missions.
The precision engineering of automated spaceflight hardware systems to support this research on the ISS is also advancing human tissue chip research here on Earth.