NASA Band-Aid Gadget Puts Astronaut Cells In Biological Ink To Heal Wounds

Currently being tested as a prototype on the space station, the Bioprint FirstAid uses a solution containing astronaut cells to heal wounds.

Nasa is testing a wearable bioprinting device aboard the International Space Station that will use an astronaut’s own cells suspended in fluid to create a bandage in the event of injury during space missions. One of the biggest challenges that comes with space exploration, especially long-range missions, is the lack of advanced healthcare facilities to care for serious illnesses. There are strict limitations on the type and amount of medical equipment that can be carried on a mission.

And then there are the challenges of suspension in microgravity. Take, for example, CPR, which can suddenly no longer be performed using body weight if another astronaut needs it. Additionally, on long-duration flights, such as the Artemis mission scheduled to send a human to Mars, the risks of serious medical and surgical events increase dramatically. Additionally, there is always a real-life scenario where the loss of a crew member’s life cannot be ruled out.

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In an effort to overcome some of these health-related challenges, NASA sent a tool called the Bioprint FirstAid Handheld Bioprinter — or Bioprint FirstAid, for short — to the International Space Station. The bio-printing device is shaped like a gun and will use pre-formulated bio-ink containing a person’s own cells to create a patch of healing tissue in the event of an injury. Scheduled to undergo testing until September 2022, the prototype tested for operational stability on the ISS currently has a “Research Only” status and is not fitted with the bioink bottles containing human cells. “The purpose of the portable bio-printer is to cover a wound area on the skin by applying tissue-forming bio-ink (bio-ink with skin cells) which acts like a patch and speeds up the healing process. “, says NASA.


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Bioprinter FirstAid Handheld Bioprinter.

For now, NASA will test the effectiveness of the printing technology by comparing patch printing results when applied to a sheet in space and with human cells here on Earth. The device can be a lifesaver for long-range missions for several reasons. NASA says wound healing patterns are altered in space, which means treating more extensive wounds becomes much more complicated than on Earth. For the bio-printing dressing tool to work, NASA will create the bio-ink stock well in advance of a mission’s liftoff. Bio-ink containing human cells will be extracted from blood and fatty tissue to create a personalized healing patch. This would allow other astronauts to immediately administer treatment if injured.


The main purpose of bio-ink is to speed up the healing process. And since the cells were taken from a person’s own body, there’s little to no chance of rejection by an astronaut’s immune system when applied to a wound. Nasa calls him “safe regenerative and personalized therapy.” Another advantage of the Bioprint FirstAid is its portable form factor, which gives astronauts more flexibility regarding the position or size of a wound on an astronaut’s body.

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Source: NASA

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