New Grant: Award Supports Cartilage Tissue Engineering on the International Space Station

Wendy Brown

Principal Investigators: Wendy Brown, postdoctoral fellow in biomedical engineering (principal investigator), and Kyriacos Athanasiou, Distinguished Professor of biomedical engineering (co-principal investigator)

Award: $399,685 over three years

Funding agency: National Science Foundation: Special Initiatives

Project: Engineering Scaffold-free, Biomimetic Neocartilage in Microgravity to Guide Terrestrial Tissue Engineering Strategies

Cartilage serves an important role in providing structural support and mechanical function throughout the body. Damage to cartilage causes pain and disability and lowers the quality of life for hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Once damaged, cartilage does not heal on its own. While some cartilage implants are already available, more progress must be made to create implants that replicate real cartilage structure and function and completely heal cartilage injuries.

Microgravity can replicate the conditions in which cartilage naturally forms in the body. In this project, the key steps to creating cartilage implants will be studied in microgravity on the International Space Station to develop innovative cartilage tissue engineering strategies that can be used on Earth. The work will contribute to the development of biomimetic tissue-engineered cartilage implants that will benefit millions of people who suffer from cartilage afflictions and to the understanding of cartilage development. Additionally, the understanding of cell and cartilage function in microgravity that will be obtained may also help develop fitness regimens to maintain astronauts’ cartilage health.

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