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Uganda Wants to 3D Print Human Tissue in Outer Space. Wait, What?

The East African country’s first satellite will gather data and conduct healthtech life saving experiments.

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On November 7th, Uganda successfully launched PearlAfricaSat-1, the country’s first satellite, into space. According to a recent QUARTZ article, they will use the microgravity environment to conduct 3D printed biofabrication experiments, including “how microgravity influences ovary function.” The project is part of a multinational program called BIRDS, that also includes Japan and Zimbabwe. It’s spearheaded by three Ugandan engineers who trained at Japan’s Kyushu Institute of Technology to learn how to design, build, test, and launch satellites.

NASA launched a resupply mission from Wallops Island on November 7th, which included an upgraded 3D bioprinter called the BioFabrication Facility (BFF). BFF is a platform for printing organ-like tissues, and Uganda will use the technology to print 3D human organs for the thousands of Ugandan patients who die each year from organ failure. The microgravity in space allows for high quality bioprinted organs that aren’t possible on earth. Printing the organs in a lower gravity environment eliminates the need for scaffolding to support the complex tissue shapes.

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