HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As the Mars Rover Curiosity continues to astound with pictures of the Red Planet, a Honolulu-based biotech company is taking on its own mission to the Final Frontier. NASA awarded Tissue Genesis a two-million dollar contract for further study on how human stem cells react in space.
Tissue Genesis teammembers thought they hit pay gold last summer - as part of the payload aboard the final, U.S. space shuttle flight, but they may be one-upping themselves now. NASA scientists from California's Ames Research Center came to Hawaii recently to award the company that contract for its BIOS project.
"What the BIOS project is, with the International Space Station being a lab, you have the capability to do longer term experiments in space," says Tissue Genesis CEO, Anton Krucky.
The team invented a bio-reactor that contains one hot and one cold chamber. Both are needed to grow and regenerate human stem cells. Elite scientists from around the world can then use this technology to send their experiments to outer space.
Bio-engineer Nora Robertson shows us the prototype and explains, "This is the incubated side. It's where the cells are grown, the bio-reactor. This is where we supply them with oxygen and nutrients - and this side is the refrigerated side."
The Tissue Genesis technology allows for more experiments to go into space at a time, they can stay there for months, instead of days, and can even be controlled from earth via handheld devices.
Krucky continues, "The huge advance is the capability, if needed, to have astronauts interject themselves from the experiment, open the unit up, make adjustments, feed the cells, close it back up in the right environment, and put it back."
And what they discover up there will potentially help with data down here - for everything from the body's vascular and muscular conditions to orthopedic and functioning issues.
The spacecraft, SpaceX Dragon, is slated to deliver the Tissue Genesis project to the International Space Station in early 2014.