Soon the International Space Station (ISS) will be the recipient of a brand new BFF. Instead of a wholesome relationship, a BFF in this instance is a BioFabrication Facility. Which sounds considerably larger than it actually is. NASA’s not sending a whole new factory up into space. It’s more of a compact bio-printer.
It’s also not the first time it’s been up there. The ISS played host to the BioFabrication Facility in 2019 when it was used to print human heart cells and a substantial portion of a human knee’s meniscus. Now, it’s heading back up there.
The cyberpunk-sounding device will be used to 3D print “knee cartilage tissue using bioinks and cells” when it’s up and running in space. The so-called BFF-Meniscus-2 will attempt to make more functional human parts while in space. The eventual goal for the device is to “…help alleviate organ shortages for patients in need of transplants by printing replacement organs and tissues.”
It’s a noble aim, worthy of a BFF. But first, the gear has to get up there for testing. A Cygnus resupply mission to the ISS will lift off sometime after 6 November to take this and other experiments into space. The RedWire bio-printer (the company worked on the ISS’ recent regolith printer) is joined by a new plant habitat. There’s also an experiment to examine how mudflows work, and an ovarian cell experiment. Also on board the Cygnus flight? Satellites from Zimbabwe and Uganda, as well as one from Japan.