Johns Hopkins, NASA send heart tissue into space

Microengineered human heart tissue is headed to space in an effort to further research on aging and the effects of long space flight.

The collaboration between Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University researchers and NASA will "monitor the tissue for changes in heart muscle cells' mitochondria (their power supply) and ability to contract in low-gravity conditions," according to a March 7 news release. The research is being funded by the National Institutes of Health.

The flight to space isn't for the faint of heart — to secure the specimens and ensure they arrive to the International Space Station intact and research-ready, the heart tissue samples were securely "loaded into a plate habitat." It will be part of NASA's SpaceX CRS-27 resupply mission aboard the Falcon 9 rocket and will launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on or around March 15.  

Different FDA-approved drugs will be added to the samples in an effort to see if the medications can prevent "heart cell changes known or suspected to occur in those undertaking long-duration spaceflights," according to Johns Hopkins' press release.

"[The new] study [from Johns Hopkins] could provide a deeper understanding of how major heart cell types respond to drugs in the space environment," Joseph Wu, PhD, MD, director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute, said in a NASA press statement. "That understanding could guide drug development strategies on Earth to treat patients with diseases such as heart failure more effectively."

Stanford previously led a different study on heart tissue in space. Now, the latest study led by Johns Hopkins aims to expand research in this vein. 

"Heart muscle tissue chips in space could be used to model heart disease and screen potential new drugs," according to a statement from the International Space Station's National Laboratory. "These projects build on knowledge both teams gained from previous tissue chip investigations on the space station."


Editor's note: This story was updated March 9 at 12:33 p.m. CT to clarify that Stanford's study was separate from the current effort led by Johns Hopkins.

Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars