All levels of biological organisation, cells, tissues, organs, organisms, are affected by microgravity often in novel and useful ways, sometimes in ways that allow medical, biotech and other problems on Earth to be better addressed. The benefits of microgravity allow to manufacture medicines, materials and living tissue that cannot be done in Earth’s 1g gravity environment.
Microgravity provides very strong value features for research and manufacturing in the biosciences area, just to list some:
Enhanced Cell Culture: Cell culture is the basis of many experiments in terrestrial based biology and biotechnology research. It is also heavily utilised by the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. Cells cultured in a lab on Earth form a flat carpet on the bottom of the petri dish, unless a matrix or scaffolding is added to force the cells to form a 3D structure similar to those in the human body. When cells are cultured in microgravity, they form 3D structures like those in the human body and cell-cell communication resembles that in the human body, creating an environment excellent for testing drug efficacy and drug safety. Stem cells have been shown to have more “stemness” when grown in microgravity and microgravity accelerates the growth rate of cells.
Microgravity Molecular Crystal Growth: The process of crystal growth, known as crystallisation, benefits from microgravity due to the lack of sedimentation and convection which results in larger, nearly defect free crystals being grown on the ISS with associated unique characteristics and behaviours.
Space induces changes resulting in bone loss, immune dysfunction, cardiovascular deconditioning, loss of skeletal muscle. These changes mimic the onset of health-related outcomes associated with ageing and debilitating chronic human diseases on Earth, hence the LEO environment can be utilised for modelling human diseases. Also from this perspective the microgravity environment in Low Earth Orbit creates a unique testing environment for drug development and drug testing.
Bacteria and yeasts produce different secondary metabolites when grown in low shear suspended conditions, as in space, producing novel flavours, pigments, antioxidants, enzymes, etc.
All aspects which make the microgravity environment ideal for research and manufacturing in the Biotech & Pharma sectors.
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