The first human knee meniscus has been 3D bioprinted in space by Redwire.

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When it comes to pushing boundaries in outer space, additive manufacturing is at the forefront of innovation. Its flexibility and ability to produce locally have made it a valuable technology for space exploration, with applications ranging from 3D printed habitats to food production. And now, we have another exciting project to add to the list.

Redwire recently announced that it successfully 3D bioprinted the first human knee meniscus in orbit, using their 3D BioFabrication Facility (BFF) on the International Space Station (ISS). This groundbreaking achievement was part of the BFF-Meniscus-2 project, in collaboration with the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences Center for Biotechnology (4D Bio3), a research center focused on adapting biotechnologies for the benefit of warfighters.

Redwire is no stranger to research on the ISS, having developed 20 research facilities for the station, with 10 currently operational. In addition to the knee meniscus project, they have also been exploring the possibility of using regolith (the loose soil and rocks found on the Moon and Mars) to 3D print structures in space.

This is not the first time Redwire has worked on 3D bioprinting a knee meniscus. In 2019, they 3D printed a meniscus-shaped scaffold using bioink derived from human tissue proteins. However, this new experiment marks the first time a full human knee meniscus has been bioprinted in space using living cells.

The company hopes that this achievement will lead to improved treatments for meniscal injuries, which are not only widespread worldwide but also prevalent among U.S. service members. Torn menisci, which act as shock absorbers in the knee joint, can cause symptoms like catching or locking of the knee, as well as limited range of motion.

The 3D bioprinting process involved using living human cells in bioinks, which were then printed on the special bioprinter installed on the ISS. The bioprinted meniscus was cultured for 14 days in Redwire’s Advanced Space Experiment Processor (ADSEP) before being sent back to Earth on the SpaceX Crew-6 Mission for analysis.

Redwire is already planning future projects related to microgravity research. In an upcoming resupply mission in November, they will launch research payloads focused on pharmaceutical drug development and regenerative medicine. One of these experiments will involve bioprinting cardiac tissue.

Redwire’s Executive Vice President, John Vellinger, sees this achievement as a major step forward in the development of a repeatable microgravity manufacturing process for reliable bioprinting at scale. The implications for human health, both in space and on Earth, are immense.

To learn more about Redwire’s work, you can visit their website or watch the video in which Dr. Aaron R. explains the significance of this project. And don’t forget to share your thoughts on this 3D printed knee meniscus in the comments section or on our social media pages. Stay updated with the latest 3D printing news by signing up for our free weekly newsletter or visiting our YouTube channel.

Photo Credits: Redwire

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