Space-printed 3D bone for emergency medicine

(ORDO NEWS) — This piece of artificial bone is the first step towards making 3D bioprinting a practical tool for emergency medicine in space.

ESA’s research work is aimed at developing bioprinting methods that can provide astronauts on long missions with easy access to “spare parts” needed for bone or skin grafting, and even to entire internal organs.

3D bioprinting may soon become practical on Earth and help cope with the challenging environment of spaceflight. For example, astronauts in zero or low gravity lose bone density, so fractures may be more likely in orbit or on Mars.

For example, the treatment of burns often requires grafting of skin taken from the patient’s body, which is quite possible on Earth with full hospital care, but more risky in space, since secondary injuries can easily not heal.

Bioprinting of skin or bone can be done using nutrient-rich “bio-dye” from human blood plasma, which can be obtained from the astronauts themselves. Working upside down – in gravity “minus 1g” – the team showed they could possibly do it in space.

This bone sample is part of the first collection of items on ESA’s 99 ESTEC Objects website, a collection of intriguing, often surprising artifacts that help tell the story of more than half a century of ESA’s technical centre.

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