The cover story of the January 2019 “The Future of Medicine” special issue of National Geographic highlights Emulate, Inc.—a company developing innovative tissue chip technology. Emulate has received two awards to conduct research on the International Space Station (ISS) National Lab to further develop their proprietary tissue chip technology, with the first investigation scheduled to launch on SpaceX CRS-17 early next year.
Tissue chips, which model the structure and function of human tissue, contain human cells grown on an artificial scaffold. Emulate’s first investigation seeks to use tissue chip technology to examine the effects of microgravity on blood-brain barrier physiology. The project was awarded through the Tissue Chips in Space initiative in partnership with National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In 2016, NCATS and the ISS National Lab announced a four-year collaboration through which NCATS would provide up to $12 million in funding to support the use of tissue chip technology for translational research onboard the ISS National Lab to benefit human health on Earth.
Emulate’s second ISS National Lab investigation aims to use the company’s proprietary human innervated Intestine-Chip, which includes immune cells, to examine the immune response of the system to disease-causing bacteria, both with and without added probiotics. Results from this research could shed light on microgravity’s effects on immune response and how the immune system could be fortified during times of stress. This project was awarded through a second funding opportunity supporting tissue chip research in space in partnership with NCATS and the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), also part of NIH.
In a press release posted by Emulate yesterday, Geraldine Hamilton, president and chief scientific officer of Emulate, said, “We are excited to expand Emulate’s research onboard the International Space Station and to advance the understanding of mechanisms driving intestinal infection and inflammation.”
Check out this past National Geographic story on Emulate that features a video in which Hamilton explains organ chips in action.