Emory Professor working with International Space Station to grow cardiac cells in space

“It is fascinating to think of how stem cells can help patients with heart disease.”
Published: Oct. 31, 2022 at 5:43 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Heart disease is the single leading cause of death in Georgia.

Scientists from Emory University are trying to change those statistics by taking their research to space.

”There is hope to use the cells to replace damaged cells in the heart for patients,” said Dr. Chunhui Xu Emory Emory University School of Medicine.

The crew of 4 from Emory University School of Medicine is packing up materials that will go to the International Space Station.

Astronauts will conduct experiments and keep crews in Georgia updated on the progress.

”On the ground, our scientists here in the lab will do a similar, parallel experiment. So, then we compare our cells grown in the lab vs the cells in space,” said Dr. Xu.

”This investigation is probably going to take place in a month or so on the Space Station. Then it will be stowed and eventually returned to earth on a Space X vehicle,” said Patrick O’Neill with International Space Station National Laboratory.

The goal is to see if the environment in space allows for cardiac cells to grow quicker than they do on earth, with more maturity.

“Treating heart disease, you need a large number of heart cells, you need to grow them into a certain amount of cells, you also need a good property of cells and when you transplant them, you won’t cause problems,” said Dr. Xu.

This is the research team’s second launch to the International Space Station.

“We have already created stem cells from skin biopsies. We grow them into a certain amount and then grow them into heart muscle cells. Then we engineer the cells into microtissues,” said Dr. Xu, “We cryopreserve the cells.”

”If everything goes according to plan, bright and early on November 6th at 5:50 am. We will have a 5-minute launch window that begins to take place,” said O’Neill.