NASA Awards Project for 3D Bioprinting Anything You Want

Don’t hold your breath yet, but NASA is funding a project that may make it possible to someday 3D bioprint anything that you ever wanted, needed, or never knew you wanted or needed.  As part of Phase I funding for its Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program, NASA has awarded $100,000 to scientists at the space program’s Ames Research Center for the pursuit of a unique kind of 3D bioprinting.

The project, titled “Biomaterials out of thin air: in situ, on-demand printing of advanced biocomposites”, will investigate the possibilities of 3D printing synthetic organic material from cellular arrays.  Or, as the project description on NASA puts it:

Imagine being able to print anything from tools and composite building materials to food and human tissues. Imagine being on Mars with the ability to replace any broken part, whether it’s a part of your spacesuit, your habitat, or your own body. We propose a technique that would allow just that. By printing 3D arrays of cells engineered to secrete the necessary materials, the abundant in situ resources of atmosphere and regolith become organic, inorganic, or organic-inorganic composite materials. Such materials include novel, biologically derived materials not previously possible to fabricate.

There is little other information on which to go on at the moment, but you may be able to intuit the process by examining the project’s chart below:

NASA chart Biomaterials

The chief scientist of synthetic biology at the NASA Ames Research Center, Lynn Rothschild, told MedCity News that she envisioned the project having a good deal of impact on the medical field, including the printing of miniature organs on which to test pharmaceuticals, which would prevent the need for animal testing. She also mentioned that the idea was not hers, but that of a PhD student at Stanford, Diana Gentry, and that Gentry, along with graduate student, Ashley Micks, has been working towards a proof of concept for the project.

The goal of the NIAC Program is to “turn science fiction into fact” and, so, NASA is funding a 12 radical projects, including one that seems to propose a form of suspended animation.  If the projects successfully demonstrate their feasibility, their teams may apply for Phase II awards of $500,000.

Source: MedCity News