Bio Plaster Produced from the 3D Printer on Board the International Space Station – Parabolic Arc

Matthias Maurer at the Bioprint FirstAid experience. (Credit: NASA/ESA)
  • As part of the “Cosmic Kiss” mission, German ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer performed the Bioprint FirstAid experiment on the International Space Station (ISS).
  • The long-term goal of the experiment is to cover skin wounds with biological ink from a 3D printer like a bandage.
  • The new technology should make it possible to significantly improve the management of wounds during space missions, but also in daily medical use on Earth.

BONN, Germany (DLR PR) — Human cells from the 3D printer, with which skin wounds can be covered like an adhesive bandage, is the long-term goal of the Bioprint FirstAid experiment. As part of the “Cosmic Kiss” mission, German ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer has now carried out the series of tests on the International Space Station. The mobile handheld device is intended to significantly improve wound care during space missions, but also in daily medical use on earth.

“With Bioprint FirstAid, this innovative technology has now been tested for the first time under space conditions,” says Dr. Michael Becker, Bioprint FirstAid project manager at the German Space Agency at DLR in Bonn. “Bioprinting is an important step towards personalized medicine in space and on earth.”

The bio-printer can be operated mechanically and consists of a handle, print head, guide wheels and two cartridges for the bio-ink with which the plaster-like dressing is made. During the experiment on the ISS, this ink was first applied to a film on Matthias Maurer’s leg. Two differently composed bio-inks and two different printheads were used.

FirstAid Bioprinter experiment (Credit: OHB)

“At first, the technological experiment will not use real human cells, but fluorescent microparticles,” says Becker. “The results should help scientists further develop the technology and make it applicable to patients.”

Improved wound healing in space and on Earth

Thanks to its compact design and easy, mobile use, the pressure technology not only has real potential for use in medical practices and clinics, but also for flexible treatment in hard-to-reach or isolated places. The bioprinter can be used both on future long-term space missions and on research stations in remote locations like Antarctica.

Organic plaster on Matthias Maurer’s leg (Credit: NASA/ESA)

Once the experiment is complete, the patches printed on the ISS will be returned to Earth by spacecraft for further testing and analysis. Meanwhile, scientists from the Technical University of Dresden conducted comparative field experiments to verify the results of the ISS experiment after their return. The aim of this study is to study the printing behavior according to different printing nozzles and different bio-inks. We also study how the microparticles were distributed in weightlessness.

In order to discuss the possible applications of 3D printing in medicine on an international level, the German Space Agency at DLR, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the TU Dresden are planning a workshop on March 15 and 16, 2022 in Dresden on the subject “Bio-printing in space”. Participants in this exchange will be astronauts and experts in the fields of bioprinting and life science research in space.

The Bioprint FirstAid experiment was commissioned by the German Space Agency at DLR with funds from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection (BMWK). The device was developed and built by OHB System AG in collaboration with scientists from the Technical University of Dresden.

The “Cosmic Kiss” Mission

The DLR is involved in the Cosmic Kiss mission in several ways: The German Space Agency DLR, based in Bonn, is responsible for the selection and coordination of German experiments and contributions. DLR scientists are also conducting their own experiments. ESA’s Columbus Control Center, located in the German DLR Space Control Center in Oberpfaffenhofen, is responsible for planning and conducting the experiments that take place in the European Columbus module of the ISS. From there, data from the experiments are passed on to national user control centers and from there to relevant scientists and industrial partners.