Scientists to send artificial heart into space to study ageing
Five Belgian companies and research centres are developing a miniature artificial heart with a circulatory system that will be sent to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2025. The aim of the project, called AstroCardia, is to conduct research into heart health and ageing.
Cardiovascular disease is one of the biggest killers in the world, says project coordinator Hilde Stenuit. "Our hearts change as we age," she says. "It slowly gets bigger and stiffer, the artery calcifies and the pumping power decreases." The researchers plan to bioprint a miniature heart on a chip and build an artificial circulatory system around it. They will then be able to carry out tests on it.
The big test is planned for 2025, when the miniature heart will be sent to the ISS for four to six weeks. "In space, factors such as stress, microgravity and radiation cause ageing processes to occur 20 times faster," says Stenuit. The results of the research will be monitored in real time in space and analysed in detail back on Earth.
"A healthy heart is important not only for those currently suffering from cardiovascular disease, but also for healthy astronauts exploring space"
The consortium hopes the experiment will prove that the cardiovascular system developed in space works as a scientific model for heart ageing. "The biggest advantage is that we can personalise the hearts using the patient's own stem cells," says radiobiology expert Kevin Tabury. "We could grow a miniature version of the patient's heart. This would be a major step forward in personalised medicine."
Martijn Reniers of the Belgian QBD Group adds: "With this project, we are looking beyond the horizon. A healthy heart is important not only for those currently suffering from cardiovascular disease, but also for healthy astronauts exploring space."
#FlandersNewsService | © PHOTO JOEL KOWSKY / NASA / AFP