Space: The final frontier … for stem cells? Seattle’s Allen Institute for Cell Science says cells from its collection are going into space for the first time on a private mission to the International Space Station.
The Allen Cell Collection’s assortment of human induced pluripotent stem cells, or IPSCs, will be the focus for one of more than 20 experiments being sent into orbit on a flight organized by Texas-based Axiom Space.
Former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson will command the Ax-2 mission — Axiom’s second trip to the space station — and her crewmates will include Tennessee business executive John Shoffner as well as Saudi astronauts Ali Alqarni and Rayyanah Barnawi.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will loft the crew into orbit in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule for what’s expected to be a weeklong stay on the station. Liftoff is set for May 21 at 5:37 p.m. ET (2:37 p.m. PT) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The fare for each rider on last year’s Ax-1 mission was around $55 million, and although the ticket price for Ax-2 hasn’t been announced, it’s probably in a similar range.
The stem-cell study is part of a series of NASA-funded experiments led by researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. This experiment is expected to break new ground when it comes to growing IPSCs in space and modifying the cells’ DNA for therapeutic purposes.