Astronauts can only dream of providing full-fledged medical care in space, although the risk of severe injuries is also high there. But now researchers at the Technical University of Dresden (TUD) have developed a method to 3D print skin and bone in space from materials available to astronauts.
One of the main problems of the ISS crew is weightlessness. Because our bodies are adapted to Earth's gravity, its absence contributes to muscle atrophy and the leaching of calcium from bones, making them less immune to fractures.
Astronauts will be helped by three-dimensional bioprinting, which has proven itself well in terrestrial conditions, helping doctors heal wounds and even print some organs for transplantation. In space, 3D printing has already been tested in tooling and is seen as a promising technology for housing on Mars.
The researchers suggest that the astronauts themselves print individual fragments of skin and bones in case of injuries and fractures. However, two problems arise here - the difficulty of obtaining "bio-ink" in space and their preservation in liquid form under microgravity conditions.
To solve the first problem, scientists proposed to produce "bio-ink" for the skin - from plasma and blood of astronauts, and for bones - from stem cells.
The second problem - microgravity is proposed to be solved by changing the viscosity of "bio-ink", which, as a rule, are quite liquid. The researchers added methylcellulose and alginate to them, an extract from seaweed - kelp, which significantly increased their viscosity. The 3D printer, adapted to the conditions of zero gravity, will even work “upside down”.