Research in space for health: growing blood vessels

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By cultivating human endothelial cells in space, researchers are gaining knowledge about the way our blood vessels function. This could help prevent and treat diseases such as atherosclerosis, hypertension, diabetes and thrombosis here on Earth, while keeping astronauts healthy in space.

In this video, biochemist and molecular biologist Dr Markus Wehland discusses the Spheroids experiment, which ran on the International Space Station during ESA astronaut Tim Peake’s Principia mission in 2016.

Cells cultivated in microgravity during this experiment assembled into globular and tubular structures. These structures were similar to the inner lining of blood vessels inside our bodies, but had never been achieved before by scientists cultivating cells on Earth.

Knowledge about cell growth and structure gained through this study could aid the development of tissue engineering techniques to replace damaged blood vessels in patients. It could also improve the efficiency and safety of drugs that help regulate vessel development.

It is good news for those affected by cardiovascular disease and a great example of the way in which research in microgravity is enhancing life on Earth.

The step to space research is closer than you might think. Get involved with spaceflight research via www.esa.int/spaceflightAO. Find out about our commercial partnerships and opportunities in human and robotic exploration via www.esa.int/explorationpartners to run your research in microgravity as well.

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