Redwire Space prints human knee cartilage in space for the first time

Redwire Space has successfully “bioprinted” a human knee meniscus aboard the International Space Station, a landmark development that could help people recovering from meniscus injuries here on Earth.

The meniscus cartilage was printed on Redwire’s BioFabrication Facility (BFF) on the ISS. As part of the investigation, called BFF-Meniscus-2, after the BFF printed the meniscus with living human cells, it was transferred to Redwire’s Advanced Space Experiment Processor for a 14-day enculturation process.

After the culture process was complete, the meniscus was packaged up and sent back to Earth aboard SpaceX’s Crew-6 mission. NASA astronauts Frank Rubio, Warren Hoburg, Stephen Bowen and UAE astronaut Sultan Al-Neyadi conducted the investigation.

As part of the experiment, Redwire partnered with the biomedical research center Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences Center for Biotechnology, an institute that investigates therapies that could help warfighters. Meniscus injuries are among the most common orthopedic injuries affecting U.S. service members.

Redwire Space has made major strides into biotechnology in recent months. Earlier this summer, the company announced it would open a 30,000-square-foot research park focused on biotech and microgravity in Indiana.

Redwire executive vice president John Vellinger lauded the printing as a “groundbreaking milestone.”

“Demonstrating the ability to successfully print complex tissue such as this meniscus is a major leap forward toward the development of a repeatable microgravity manufacturing process for reliable bioprinting at scale,” he said.

The company has much longer-term ambitions for bioprinting and microgravity research in space. On a SpaceX Commercial Resupply mission to the ISS scheduled for November, Redwire will launch payloads focused on pharmaceutical drug development in microgravity and an experiment to bioprint cardiac tissue.

Redwire also signed an agreement with Sierra Space that would see Redwire’s biotech and in-space manufacturing technology integrated into Sierra’s Large Integrated Flexible Environment (LIFE) space station module. LIFE will be part of Orbital Reef, a private space station being developed with Blue Origin, Boeing and others.