One Small Step Toward Printing Replacement Organs… in Space

Allevi and Made in Space want to send a bioprinter to the International Space Station

When our reality catches up with sci-fi, there will be lots of reasons to have bioprinters in space.

For example, an astronaut on the long-haul voyage to Mars might get a terrible burn while futzing around with chemicals, and would be grateful for the ability to print out a new patch of skin. Or, looking even further into the future, a Martian colonist might suffer from liver failure but be saved by doctors who could print out a replacement organ. 

Those scenarios are far off both in terms of humanity’s space flight capabilities and the state of 3D bioprinting—a rapidly advancing technique in which specialized 3D printers squeeze out biomaterials and cells to build up pieces of tissue, layer by layer. 

But a new partnership between the bioprinter company Allevi and Made in Space, a company with two 3D printers aboard the International Space Station (ISS), represents the first step toward those scenes of sci-fi medicine.

Allevi has designed the ZeroG bio extruder, which is capable of printing biomaterials in microgravity, and the two companies have worked together to ensure that it slots easily into a Made in Space printer. “We want it to be astronaut plug-and-play,” says Ricky Solorzano, CEO of Allevi (the company formerly known as BioBots).