It adds that with these chips, researchers hope to study how human lung tissue reacts to Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection — which has been found in the space station — while in space. "At this point our hypothesis is that bacterial cells somehow become more virulent in the microgravity environment," University of Pennsylvania's Dan Huh tells Wired. "It's an interesting question for the field, but there's not much [data] out there, to be honest."
This effort is part of a National Institutes of Health's initiative at the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, called the Tissue Chips in Space program. According to NCATS, these chips will be used to studying aging and other disease processes that are affected by microgravity and use those findings to improve treatments back on Earth. Other chips in the payload, NCATS says, are to be used to study kidney function, the blood-brain barrier, and knee joint injuries in space.
However, Wired notes that the launch of the Dragon cargo capsule has been delayed a few times, and Space.com reports that the launch was again delayed due to a helium leak. The next attempt is scheduled for tomorrow, it says.