Three Tissue Engineering Projects Awarded From Joint National Science Foundation and CASIS Solicitation to Leverage the Space Station

Press Release From: Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS)
Posted: Monday, October 19, 2020

The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced three flight projects that were selected as part of a joint solicitation focused on leveraging the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory to further knowledge in the fields of tissue engineering and mechanobiology. Through this collaboration, CASIS, manager of the ISS National Lab, will facilitate hardware implementation, in-orbit access, and astronaut crew time on the orbiting laboratory. NSF invested $1.2 million in the selected projects, which are seeking to advance fundamental science and engineering knowledge for the benefit of life on Earth.

This is the third collaborative research opportunity between CASIS and NSF focused on tissue engineering. Fundamental science is a major line of business for the ISS National Lab, and by conducting research in the persistent microgravity environment offered by the orbiting laboratory, NSF and the ISS National Lab will drive new advances that will bring value to our nation and spur future inquiries in low Earth orbit.

Microgravity affects organisms—from viruses and bacteria to humans, inducing changes such as altered gene expression and DNA regulation, changes in cellular function and physiology, and 3D aggregation of cells. Spaceflight is advancing research in the fields of pharmaceutical research, disease modeling, regenerative medicine, and many other areas within the life sciences. The selected projects will utilize the ISS National Lab and its unique environment to advance fundamental and transformative research that integrates engineering and life sciences. 

Below are the selected projects from this solicitation:

ISS: Collaborative Research: 3D Bone Marrow Analogs to Determine the Contribution of Mechanical Signals to Aging MSC Function in Microgravity            
Boise State University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Principal Investigators (PI): Gunes Uzer and Elizabeth Blaber

ISS: Engineering Multiple-Compartment Cartilage Tissue Construct for Space and Terrestrial Applications
University of Connecticut
PI: Yupeng Chen

ISS: Unveiling the Mechanical Roles of Gravity and Buoyancy in Embryonic Brain and Heart Torsion
Dartmouth College
PI: Zi Chen

“The collaboration between NSF and the ISS National Lab to support tissue engineering and mechanobiology research will uncover new knowledge about brain and heart development, maintaining healthy cartilage, and reducing the negative impacts of human aging,” said NSF Assistant Director for Engineering Dawn Tilbury. “The insights gained from studies in different gravitational environments will ultimately improve life for citizens, young and old, who experience injuries here on Earth.”

“With the announcement of these new investigations focused on leveraging the space station for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine research, we thank NSF for their continued support and desire to facilitate fundamental life sciences research on our orbiting laboratory,” said CASIS Interim Chief Scientist Michael Roberts, Ph.D. “Moreover, we welcome these new additions to the space station research community and look forward to launching the investigations to the ISS National Lab to facilitate novel discoveries that benefit humanity.”

All grants and subsequent flight opportunities are contingent on final contract agreements between the award recipients, CASIS, and NSF.

To learn more about the capabilities of the ISS National Lab, including past research initiatives and available facilities, visit

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About the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory: In 2005, Congress designated the U.S. portion of the ISS as the nation’s newest national laboratory to optimize its use for improving quality of life on Earth, promoting collaboration among diverse users, and advancing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. This unique laboratory environment is available for use by non-NASA U.S. government agencies, academic institutions, and the private sector. The ISS National Lab manages access to the permanent microgravity research environment, a powerful vantage point in low Earth orbit, and the extreme and varied conditions of space. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space is the nonprofit responsible for management of the ISS National Lab.

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