KENNEDY SPACE CENTER (FL), March 10, 2023 – Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, with one in every four adult deaths attributed to it. To improve treatments for cardiovascular disease on our planet, scientists are taking their research off planet. Prolonged spaceflight can result in many of the same physiological changes associated with aging, only at a much quicker rate. This makes the International Space Station (ISS) a valuable platform for research on conditions associated with the aging process, like cardiovascular disease.
To that end, researchers from Johns Hopkins University are leveraging the microgravity environment of the ISS National Laboratory to better understand how the heart functions as a means to develop new ways to treat heart disease and improve patient care on Earth.
“We are trying to understand how cardiovascular disease progresses over time and also better understand how astronaut health is affected by prolong spaceflight,” said Deok-Ho Kim, a professor of Biomedical Engineering at The Johns Hopkins University.
Launching on SpaceX’s 27th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission, the investigation will use tissue chips in space to study how microgravity affects cardiac function. Previous research has shown that microgravity not only induces structural changes within cardiac cells but also affects how the cells beat. In this investigation, the research team will monitor the contractile force of cardiac tissues in space in real time to help better understand how cardiovascular disease progresses over time. The team will also test therapeutics to evaluate how well cardiac function is preserved in microgravity.
The project is funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) through the Tissue Chips in Space initiative in collaboration with the ISS National Lab. Tissue chips are small devices engineered to model the structure and function of human tissue. By taking tissue chips to space, researchers can observe microgravity-induced changes in human physiology relevant to disease, which could lead to novel therapies for patients on Earth. The research team is launching 24 tissue chips that contain cardiac cells differentiated from human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).
“We are going to examine the rate at which these cardiac tissues beat over the period of one month and compare that to ground-based experiments to test out the effectiveness of new therapeutics,” Kim said.
The SpaceX CRS-27 mission is targeted for launch from Kennedy Space Center no earlier than March 14 at 8:30 p.m. EDT. This mission will include more than 15 ISS National Lab-sponsored payloads. To learn more about all ISS National Lab-sponsored research on SpaceX CRS-27, please visit our launch page.
Download a high-resolution image for this release: SpaceX CRS-27: Johns Hopkins Cardiac Research
# # #
About the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory: The International Space Station (ISS) is a one-of-a-kind laboratory that enables research and technology development not possible on Earth. As a public service enterprise, the ISS National Lab allows researchers to leverage this multiuser facility to improve life on Earth, mature space-based business models, advance science literacy in the future workforce, and expand a sustainable and scalable market in low Earth orbit. Through this orbiting national laboratory, research resources on the ISS are available to support non-NASA science, technology and education initiatives from U.S. government agencies, academic institutions, and the private sector. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) manages the ISS National Lab, under Cooperative Agreement with NASA, facilitating access to its permanent microgravity research environment, a powerful vantage point in low Earth orbit, and the extreme and varied conditions of space. To learn more about the ISS National Lab, visit www.ISSNationalLab.org.
# # #