On September 7, 2023, Redwire Space disclosed the images of the first human meniscus bio-printed in space, as a result of the BFF-Meniscus-2 experiment. The human tissue was printed using Redwire’s BioFabrication Facility (BFF) and then cultured for 14 days in another Redwire device, the Advanced Space Experiment Processor (ADSEP). It was returned to Earth aboard the Crew Dragon Endeavour, during the SpaceX Crew-6 Mission.
🚨 The grand reveal…— Redwire Space (@RedwireSpace) September 7, 2023
Check out these photos of the first human knee meniscus biomanufactured in space with our 3D BioFabrication Facility! This milestone is paving the way for advanced in-space bioprinting capabilities to benefit human health: https://t.co/QFWGFpjgut pic.twitter.com/fObZ7tZ9WK
BFF-Meniscus-2, microgravity as a key success factor
Delivered on March 2023 with SpaceX CRS-27 resupply mission, BFF-Meniscus-2 is part of a series of researches developed by Redwire Space to test and use its facilities mounted on the ISS. The experiment objective was to 3D print a human meniscus leveraging on the microgravity condition aboard the ISS since printing soft tissues on the Earth is challenging due to gravity’s influence.
The knee cartilage has been chosen because it’s very avascular and easier to print than other human tissues. In addition, its injury is one of the most frequent and its treatment could require the removal of a part or the entire tissue that ideally should be replaced.
The BFF’s bio-printer used special bio-inks, containing living human cells, which were put together layer by layer, to form the entire human tissue. When the printing job was finished, the ISS astronauts used another Redwire facility, the ADSEP, to culture the tissue for two weeks.
BioFabrication Facility, a human tissue farm in microgravity
The BFF-Meniscus-2 builds on the previous research in 2020 when Redwire bio-printed a partial meniscus using the earlier version of the BFF.
Last February, the astronauts on the ISS installed an upgraded version of the facility. The new BFF allows better temperature control while printing, while its upgraded imaging system helps improve the accuracy of the prints.
Thanks to the success of this experiment, Redwire will continue with the tests. The company will send new research payloads already with the next CRS-29 resupply mission in November 2023. The focus will be on pharmaceutical drug development and producing bio-printed cardiac tissue.