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McGowan Institute Partners with International Space Station

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Erin Hare, Ph.D.
Manager, Science Writing

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ISS featureKENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – The International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory is embarking upon a multi-year research alliance with the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine (MIRM) at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) to push the limits of biomedical research and development aboard the orbiting laboratory. 


The alliance — a core element of the ISS National Laboratory Industrial Biomedicine Program — was unveiled at the 8th Annual ISS Research and Development Conference held in Atlanta earlier this month. This new partnership will serve as a benchmark for how the ISS National Laboratory develops similar programs in the future involving research and development activities aboard the space station.


The ISS National Laboratory and MIRM will collaborate with partners from industry, other academic research centers, and government agencies to drive the progress of regenerative medicine research onboard the ISS. As part of this alliance, Pitt will develop Earth-based facilities on campus to advance research and meet with potential partners, while working in coordination with the ISS National Laboratory on flight opportunities to the orbiting laboratory. The program will focus on microgravity life sciences research and development, with a line of sight toward products and services for clinical application on Earth. 


For instance, exploiting the unique behavior of stem cells in microgravity could improve cell-based therapies for a variety of diseases and impairments, such as traumatic brain injury and type I diabetes. Similarly, microgravity could allow 3D printers to create complex tissue structures that are difficult to achieve in the presence of full gravity.


“As the premier partner for the Industrial Biomedicine Alliance with the ISS National Laboratory, we look forward to using the space station as a testbed for regenerative medicine advances and product development in low Earth orbit,” said MIRM Director William R. Wagner, Ph.D.  


“The McGowan Institute has built on its deep history of advancing the development of artificial organs to establish a position of internationally recognized leadership in regenerative medicine,”said Rob A. Rutenbar, Ph.D., senior vice chancellor for research at Pitt. “The ISS National Laboratory will benefit from that deep expertise, as well as our commitment to rapid clinical translation.” 


The products of the Industrial Biomedicine Program and this research partnership will help build the fundamental business case for the industrialization of crewed platforms in low Earth orbit. In future alliances, the ISS National Laboratory will work with companies and research partners who seek to better understand and find solutions to common problems on Earth through space-based experimentation on the ISS National Laboratory. 


“The ISS National Laboratory is proud to announce this alliance with Pitt and MIRM in order to develop biomedical products in space that could benefit human health on Earth,” said ISS National Laboratory Chief Strategy Officer Richard Leach, Ph.D. “Part of the role of the ISS National Laboratory is to create and implement innovative strategies to enhance the research capacity of the orbiting laboratory, and we believe alliances like this will pave the way for future collaborations to advance the discoveries of space-based science.”


To learn more about innovative research taking place aboard the ISS National Laboratory, visit  
PHOTO INFO: (click image for high-res version)


CREDIT: Getty Images

CAPTION: International Space Station