Emulate Brain-Chip to Study the Effects of Microgravity on Human Brain Physiology at the International Space Station

BOSTON, December 21, 2021 (Emulate PR) – Emulate, Inc., a leading provider of next-generation in vitro models, today announced that the Brain-Chip was sent to the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory (ISS National Lab) to study the effects of microgravity on human brain physiology as part of the Tissue-Chips in Space initiative sponsored by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the International Space Station National Lab (ISS-NL). The ISS provides an environment where researchers can study human health in microgravity, allowing them to isolate the effects of gravity from other factors that can impact brain cell function. 

The Emulate Brain-Chip is the most comprehensive in vitro model of the human neurovascular unit, including the blood-brain barrier (BBB), for preclinical research. It contains five cell types in a dynamic and tunable microenvironment, resulting in in vivo-like gene expression and phenotypic response. Each chip is about the size of a USB thumb drive and contains two fluidic channels separated by a porous membrane. The vascular channel is lined with brain microvascular endothelial cells, while the brain channel contains cortical neurons, astrocytes, pericytes, and microglia. This allows researchers to study BBB function, the ability of drugs to cross the BBB, and the complex cell-cell interactions involved in brain physiology, disease, and drug response.

All 12 chips will be situated in a shoebox-sized piece of instrumentation that was custom designed for spaceflight, which provides automated environmental control, perfusion, fluid sampling, dosing, and fixation as part of the experiment.

Emulate’s implementation partner, SpaceTango, has an agreement with NASA allowing them to manufacture and deploy commercial payloads to the space station for microgravity research and development. As such, SpaceTango has led the development of the instrumentation and is responsible for overseeing the logistics of sending the Brain-Chip to the ISS.

“By comparing the human Brain-Chip response to an inflammatory stimulus under reduced gravity conditions versus its response back on Earth, we will be able to investigate differences in cytokine production, BBB permeability, and morphology,” said Daniel Levner, Chief Technology Officer of Emulate. “Previous studies, such as NASA’s Functional Immune study, have shown changes in endothelial cell morphology in 2D cultures in space as well as many changes in astronaut immune function during spaceflight. Understanding how the immune system interacts with organ biology in microgravity will be important for future research, and we are honored to be a part of this project.” 

Earlier this year, the Emulate Brain-Chip was honored by The Scientist as one of the Top 10 Innovations of 2021.For more information on Emulate, please visit emulatebio.com.

Research reported in this press release was supported by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under award number UG3TR002188. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

About Emulate, Inc.

Emulate is igniting a new era in human health with industry-leading Organ-on-a-Chip technology. The Human Emulation System provides a window into the inner workings of human biology and disease— offering researchers an innovative technology designed to predict human response with greater precision and detail than conventional cell culture or animal-based experimental testing. Pioneered at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and backed by Northpond Ventures, Founders Fund, and Perceptive Advisors, Organ-on-a-Chip technology is assisting researchers across academia, pharma, and government industries through its predictive power and ability to recreate true-to-life human biology. To learn more, visit emulatebio.com or follow us on  LinkedIn and Twitter