NASA has created miniature avatars that will be able to model diseases and help determine personalized medications for those embarking on a space travel, Ambito reports (in Spanish). This technology will help us understand how spaceflights affects health of astronauts.
During space travels, astronauts experience loss of bone weight, muscle atrophy, changes in the immune system , and other conditions that can affect their health. The problem with these stress factors on the health of space travellers is not only that they may contribute to health problems for astronauts. In space, they will not have access to fully equipped hospitals or laboratories to treat their ailments. This is why there is a need to create disease models and to develop advanced medicines and methods to understand biological changes in deep space in anticipation of travelling there.
The first 3D tissue chip was introduced in 2010, and after 12 years of research, good results were presented. These chips are designed to be about the size of a credit card and can be used to represent various human organs such as: the structure and function of various parts of the body, lungs, liver, kidneys, intestines, bones , muscles and heart. Combined, they can represent various human organ systems.
These miniature avatars of living organ tissues are engineered by converting a person’s blood or skin cells to grow the tissue of interest on microfluidic chips . These chips are used by researchers, both on Earth and in space aboard the International Space Station, to gain more detailed information about the biological effects of spaceflight exposure, understand disease modeling, and predict the potential efficacy of pharmaceuticals.
Scientists have high hopes for the future of this new technology. Recently, tissue chips were used to study Covid-19, helping to understand the pathology of the disease and to test potential therapies.