Stem Cells in Space
Oct 19, 2021 Sarah Spivack LaRosa
Is the future of personalized medicine out of this world? Cedars-Sinai is trying to find out by launching special stem cells into space to see if they multiply better there.
The RMI is partnering with Space Tango of Lexington, Kentucky, to send special stem cells called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to the International Space Station.
Human iPSCs are created in the lab from a person's blood or skin cells and generate any body cell. Each cell made this way carries the DNA of the individual. So iPSCs are ideal for creating and testing potential treatments that can be exactly tailored to the individual.
"By delaying differentiation, microgravity has the potential to enable larger and more 'pure' stable batches of stem cells to be produced."
"As useful as iPSCs are for research, their greatest contributions may lie ahead and beyond—in space, making stem cell therapies for future patients," says Clive Svendsen, PhD, executive director of the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute (RMI).
Through the NASA mission, Clive and his team are seeking to determine whether it is practical to produce large batches of stem cells in space for medical treatment for a variety of diseases.
Prior studies have demonstrated that a microgravity environment, present in orbiting spacecraft, changes the behavior of a variety of stem cells. It delays the cells' natural tendency to spontaneously change—or differentiate—into multiple types of body cells. But few studies have delved into the effect of microgravity on iPSCs, says Dhruv Sareen, PhD, executive director of the Biomanufacturing Center and director of the Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Core facility at the RMI.
"By delaying differentiation, microgravity has the potential to enable larger and more 'pure' stable batches of stem cells to be produced," explains Dhruv. "These qualities could enhance scaled-up manufacturing of iPSCs and other derived cells for potential use in patient clinical trials and FDA-approved therapies."