Washington: Researchers in the US are sending human stem cells to the International Space Station (ISS) to study whether they grow faster in space.
Dr Abba Zubair of the Cell Therapy Laboratory at Mayo Clinic in Florida has received a USD 300,000 grant to observe whether human stem cells, which are found in bone marrow, do in fact grow at a greater rate in space than on Earth.
Zubair believes the space-grown cells could help patients recover from strokes, and that it may even be possible to generate human tissues and organs in space.
"On Earth, we face many challenges in trying to grow enough stem cells to treat patients," Zubair said.
"It now takes a month to generate enough cells for a few patients. A clinical-grade laboratory in space could provide the answer we all have been seeking for regenerative medicine," he said.
According to the Mayo Clinic, experiments conducted on Earth using microgravity have shown that these conditions are more conducive to stem cell growth than conventional laboratories, 'Gizmag' reported.
In his laboratory in Florida, Zubair currently grows cells that induce the regeneration of neurons and blood vessels in sufferers of hemorrhagic strokes.
He believes that if these cells were generated in space instead, their population would increase rapidly, allowing for treatment of a wide variety of conditions.
"If you have a ready supply of these cells, you can treat almost any condition, and theoretically regenerate entire organs using a scaffold," said Zubair.
Zubair is now working with engineers at the University of Colorado to build a specialised cell bioreactor, which they hope will be taken to the ISS within a year to begin the experiment.