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Bone Regeneration Experiment Begun on Space Station

International Space Station

International Space Station (

12 Dec. 2022. An experiment is underway testing a bone repair biomaterial in lab mice under weightless conditions on the International Space Station. The experiment is assessing Tetranite, a bio-compatible bone adhesive developed by RevBio Inc. in Lowell, Massachusetts, launched with a resupply mission to the space station on 26 Nov.

RevBio says Tetranite is an injectable self-setting material patterned after the natural wet adhesive secreted by the sandcastle worm, a marine organism in the Pacific Ocean off California that builds colonies resembling hives. The company says Tetranite is designed for use as a wet glue in surgery that hardens without being washed away. The most advanced applications are dental implants and grafts, as well as dental scaffolds in animals. RevBio is also developing Tetranite to treat injuries from osteoporosis, cranial bone repair and trauma bone fractures. In Apr. 2021, Science & Enterprise reported on an NIH small-business grant to RevBio to test Tetranite for repairing wrist fractures.

The material, says RevBio, is made of tetracalcium phosphate, a natural mineral used in bone cements, and the amino acid O-Phospho-L-serine often employed for protein expression and purification. The company says surgeons inject liquid Tertranite in bone, which then cures and sets as it hardens. Tetranite then forms into a solid that allows osteoblasts, or bone tissue precursor cells, to form into natural bone tissue that grows with blood vessels over the fracture site, as the injected material later breaks down over time.

Bone growth under weightless conditions compared to Earth

RevBio says an earlier experiment on the International Space Station tested bio-compatibility and proliferation of osteoblast cells with Tertranite in weightless conditions. In the new experiment, live lab rodents induced with calvarial skull defects and injected with Tetranite were launched to the space station where they will live for two months. A similar test of Tetranite in lab rodents is also underway on earth, with findings compared after the space-launched animals are returned and retrieved.

“The results,” says RevBio CEO and founder Brian Hess in a company statement released through BusinessWire, “will both validate and motivate our continued research efforts to commercialize products across several indications aimed at revolutionizing treatment options for patients with osteoporosis who suffer from debilitating fractures and have a poor prognosis for recovery.”

The company says the animal experiments are designed and conducted by Giuseppe Intini, professor of dentistry and regenerative medicine at University of Pittsburgh, with postdoctoral researcher Roberta Di Carlo. The team plans to examine and measure bone regeneration under both conditions with commuted tomography or CT scans, as well as tissue and gene expression analysis. The researchers expect to publish their findings by the end of 2023.

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