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Tissue Chips for Blast Off

Tissue chips are set to blast off into space today to study physiological changes that astronauts experience, according to the US National Institutes of Health.

While in space, astronauts suffer bone loss, muscle deterioration, and immune system changes, which are typically hallmarks of aging. But, for astronauts, these changes reverse upon their return to Earth. To further study these effects, NIH's National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences has partnered with the International Space Station US National Laboratory to send tissue chips to the space station. Among the cargo on SpaceX's resupply mission today are about a dozen tissue chips designed by University of California, San Francisco, researchers to model the human immune system, NIH says.

Once they arrive at the ISS, the chips are to spend time in an incubator, where they'll experience the microgravity of the space station, then be frozen and returned to Earth for analysis.

"We expect this research to give scientists new insights into the molecular basis for many human conditions, which in this particular project relates to how microgravity induces aging of the immune system that may lead to the development of novel therapies here on Earth," says Danilo Tagle, the acting deputy director of NCATS, in a statement.

According to, the rocket carrying the Dragon cargo capsule is to launch today at 1:16 pm Eastern time.