3D BioFabrication Facility (BFF)
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The 3D BioFabrication Facility (BFF) and the Redwire ADvanced Space Experiment Processor (ADSEP), together comprise the first-ever system capable of manufacturing human tissue in the microgravity condition of space. Utilizing adult human cells (such as pluripotent or stem cells), the system can create viable tissue in space through technology that enables it to precisely place and build ultra-fine layers of bioink – layers that may be several times smaller than the width of a human hair – involving the smallest print tips in existence.
Why Bioprint in Space
While researchers have seen some success with the 3D printing of bones on Earth, the manufacture of soft human tissue, such as blood vessels and muscle, has proven more difficult. On Earth, when attempting to print with soft, easily flowing biomaterials that better mimic the body’s natural environment, tissues collapse under their own weight – resulting in little more than a puddle. But if these same materials are used in space in a microgravity environment, 3D-printed soft tissues will maintain their shape.
Without proper conditioning, space-printed tissues also would collapse if immediately returned to Earth. Operating in space along with BFF is a Redwire-developed cell-culturing system that strengthens the tissue over time, to the point where it becomes viable and self-supporting once back in the Earth’s gravity. Whereas the tissue printing process may take less than a day, the strengthening process can take 12 to 45 days, depending on the tissue.
The long-term success of BFF as a manufacturing system brings an array of prospective medical breakthroughs, including:
- Reducing the organ donor shortage (there are about 113,000 people on transplant waiting lists)
- Creating patient-specific replacement tissues or patches
- The possibility of transplant recipients receiving organs comprised of their own stem cells, thus reducing likelihood of rejection, and reducing long-term costs associated with a lifetime of anti-rejection drugs, and perhaps additional transplants
- Eliminating the requirement that someone must first die in order for another person to receive a new heart or other organ
- Testing drug efficacy using Redwire-manufactured tissue
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