First culture of brain organoids in space: mission r

First culture of brain organoids in space: mission r
First culture of brain organoids in space: mission r

Growing organoids in space is a journey strewn with pitfalls… all of which were overcome by the team. “ We know how to cultivate them perfectly in our laboratories, but the conditions for carrying out the experiment on the ISS were new for us, requiring real biotechnological engineering work. », Testifies Frank Yates. Didier Chaput, head of life sciences experiments at CADMOS (CNES), supports: “ Our role was to support the scientific teams from the first stages of the project to carry it out successfully in space conditions. This allows them to concentrate solely on science. » With the Bioserve team, CNES ensured that all the equipment necessary for the experiment was present on board the ISS.

First step: make the cerebral organoids and ensure the feasibility of the experiment

Working for the ISS requires optimizing as much as possible the resources allocated to the experiment to reduce costs, such as the volume and astronaut time dedicated to carrying out operations during the flight. », explains Didier Chaput. On the ground, organoids measuring a few millimeters were produced and cultured in specially designed cassettes supplied by the American company Bioserve. These first tests, successfully completed, made it possible to validate the feasibility of the ground experiment in conditions closest to those of flight, opening the road to the ISS.

Second step: transport the organoids to the ISS

384 organoids were placed in two hermetically closed containers, guaranteeing a constant temperature of 37°C and a CO rate.2 of 5%. These conditions are essential to keep the organoids alive. The two incubators were taken to the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. After careful selection, 84 organoids were placed in the 14 flight cassettes with culture medium and then delivered to NASA a few hours before their departure aboard the Falcon9 rocket on November 9, 2023. The unselected organoids continued their development on the ground, serving as control samples.

Third step: carry out the scientific experiment on board the ISS

It was one of the most important and difficult. “ To survive, organoids need to be nourished: their culture medium must be renewedexplains Frank Yates. For the first time, we have made this possible for cerebral organoids, while reducing the frequency of renewal of the medium to a minimum because the astronauts’ time on board is precious. » The cassettes have a slot where a syringe filled with fresh culture medium can be inserted by the astronaut. Another syringe is used to suck up the used culture medium. Finally, the astronauts followed a precise scientific protocol. At 3 time points (2 days after arrival on board, in the middle of the mission and before returning to earth), some organoids were immobilized. “ They are either frozen or “fixed” by a specific productexplains Miria Ricchetti. This makes it possible to analyze their condition at the time of immobilization, and thus review their evolution over time. »

Step Four: Bring the organoids back to Earth

As planned, the 12 organoids still alive were brought back in the same conditions as on the outward journey. As for those fixed, they were in refrigerated containers at 4°C or -80°C. “ Returning the living organoids to the scientists was a real relief, a sign of the success of the mission despite the many unforeseen events we had to face.says Didier Chaput. Thanks to the rigorous protocol followed, the results of this experiment are robust and will help advance scientific knowledge. »

14 flight cassettes were integrated into two containers from the company Bioserve, which enabled transport to and from the ISS.
Credits: CNES/D. Chaput, 2023

Didier Chaput, head of life sciences experiments at CADMOS (CNES). Credits: CNES/T. From Prada, 2021

Each time the culture medium is changed, photos are taken using a microscope and a camera provided by Bioserve. Astronaut Andreas Mogensen was in charge of this stage. Credits: NASA, 2023.

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