Scientists 3D-print Human Skin and Bone for Eventual Use in Space

One of my favorite subjects to talk about is how modern science is making baby steps towards a Star Trek-style future. Yesterday I brought you two stories of physics and propulsion, and today...it’s biology.

CNET ran a story yesterday about the European Space Agency’s project that aims to 3D print human tissue. The ESA released videos just last week where they demonstrated 3D printing skin and bone.

The technology was developed at the University Hospital of Dresden Technical University, in Germany. The CNET piece explains that the skin was printed using a “bio-ink” made from blood plasma. And a bioprinting specialist at the university, Nieves Cubo, further explained the bone-printing process: “Producing the bone sample involved printing human stem cells with a similar bio-ink composition, with the addition of a calcium phosphate bone cement as a structure-supporting material, which is subsequently absorbed during the growth phase.”

Eventually, the ESA would like to use the technology on long space missions. Tommaso Ghidini, head of ESA’s Structures, Mechanisms and Materials Division said, “Carrying enough medical supplies for all possible eventualities would be impossible in the limited space and mass of a spacecraft. Instead, a 3D bioprinting capability will let them respond to medical emergencies as they arise.”

It’s all a bit exciting - and kinda gross.

Alison Pitt