First-in-kind Human 3-dimensional Models of Parkinson’s Disease and Progressive Multiple Sclerosis Launching to the International Space Station

News Press Release

First patient-derived, induced pluripotent stem cell disease-specific organoid models in microgravity to advance understanding of neurodegenerative disease

LOUISVILLE, KY — (BUSINESS WIRE) — The National Stem Cell Foundation (NSCF) announced today that research teams from Aspen Neuroscience and the New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) Research Institute will send a first-in-kind study of neurodegenerative disease to the International Space Station (ISS) on the nineteenth SpaceX Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-19) mission, scheduled to launch December 4th from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. This is the second space flight for the research teams. A preliminary experiment was launched to the ISS in July 2019 onboard SpaceX CRS-18 to test custom flight hardware systems and refine post-flight analytical methods in preparation for the SpaceX CRS-19 launch.

The NSCF-funded collaboration between researchers at the NYSCF Research Institute and Aspen Neuroscience will perform the first study of long-term cell cultures of patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) neural organoids with microglia on the ISS to study Parkinson’s disease and primary progressive multiple sclerosis in microgravity. The ability to observe cell interaction, cell signaling, migration, changes in gene expression and the common pathways of neuroinflammation for both diseases in microgravity provides an opportunity to view the biological processes in a way that is not possible on Earth. This innovative approach to modelling disease has the potential to provide valuable new insight into the fundamental mechanisms underlying neurodegenerative disorders that may accelerate biomarker discovery and potential new drug and cell therapy options for patients. These models also offer potential for better translational study and future personalized medicine applications.

The development of patient-specific, 3-dimensional human organoids that incorporate microglia (the inflammatory cells of the immune system implicated in the development of Parkinson’s, MS and other neurodegenerative diseases) for observation and study in the unique research environment of microgravity has the potential to enable progress across the field for a wide variety of conditions that affect a significant portion of the global population. The engineering required to facilitate the transport of cells and culture on orbit is being led by space flight engineering partner Space Tango.

Dr. Paula Grisanti, CEO of NSCF said, “Supporting this collaboration between world-class research teams during a time of explosive growth in our understanding of the research advances possible in space is a great privilege. We are delighted to be funding such innovative science at the frontier of new drug and cell therapy discovery.”

“We are thrilled to be working with such a comprehensive team of scientists and fantastic organizations and feel honored to use our technology to better understand neurodegenerative disorders affecting so many persons globally,” said Dr. Andres Bratt-Leal, Vice President of Research and Development, Aspen Neuroscience.

“We feel privileged to have the opportunity to help understand the behavior of neural cells in microgravity and to help model neurodegenerative disease in such a novel way. We are excited about this fantastic project and look forward to learning the results,” said Dr. Jeanne Loring, Chief Scientific Officer, Aspen Neuroscience.

“We are excited to collaborate on the first study of progressive multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s patient brain cells in space. This work will provide important insights into the mechanisms behind these diseases and advance targets for future treatments,” noted Susan L. Solomon, NYSCF Chief Executive Officer.

“There is significant potential to advance our understanding of MS and PD as we initiate these long-term studies of patient cells in microgravity now that we have completed our preliminary tests,” said Dr. Valentina Fossati, NYSCF Senior Research Investigator. “We look forward to leveraging the unique capabilities of spaceflight research to better understand the role of microglia in multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease, as well as how dysfunction in these cells can be targeted therapeutically.”

“It takes vision, passion, and courage to change the paradigms of current understanding,” said Jana Stoudemire, Commercial Innovation Officer at Space Tango. “We are honored to support the groundbreaking work of the National Stem Cell Foundation and these recognized leaders in stem cell biology. Their commitment and dedication to advancing the frontiers of science using new tools and new approaches has been inspiring to witness, and has the potential to provide an entirely new perspective on Parkinson’s and progressive MS.”

To learn more about this unique collaboration, visit

About The National Stem Cell Foundation (NSCF)

The National Stem Cell Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that funds adult stem cell and regenerative medicine research, connects children with limited resources to clinical trials for rare diseases and underwrites the National STEM Scholar Program for middle school science teachers inspiring the next generation of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) pioneers nationwide. For more information, visit

About The New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) Research Institute

The New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute is an independent organization accelerating cures and better treatments for patients through stem cell research. The NYSCF global community includes over 180 researchers at leading institutions worldwide, including NYSCF – Druckenmiller Fellows, NYSCF – Robertson Investigators, NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Prize Recipients, and NYSCF Research Institute scientists and engineers. The NYSCF Research Institute is an acknowledged world leader in stem cell research and in developing pioneering stem cell technologies, including the NYSCF Global Stem Cell Array® and in enabling large-scale stem cell research for scientists around the globe. NYSCF focuses on translational research in a model designed to overcome the barriers that slow discovery and replace silos with collaboration. For more information, visit

About Aspen Neuroscience, Inc.

Aspen Neuroscience is a development stage, private biotechnology company that uses innovative genomic approaches combined with stem cell biology to deliver patient-specific, restorative cell therapies that modify the course of Parkinson’s disease. The pipeline technology of Aspen is based upon the scientific work of world-renowned stem cell scientist, Dr. Jeanne Loring, who has developed a novel method for autologous neuron replacement. For more information and important updates, please visit

About Space Tango, Inc.

Space Tango provides improved access to microgravity through their Open Orbit platform for bioengineering and manufacturing applications that benefit life on Earth. With their first operational TangoLab facility installed on the International Space Station in 2016, and a second facility installed in 2017, Space Tango has designed and flown nearly 80 diverse payloads. As a recognized leader in the development of fully automated, remote-controlled systems for research and manufacturing in orbit, Space Tango continues to provide expertise in technology and scientific consulting for industry and academic partners. Leveraging this current work, Space Tango is developing new commercial market segments in space with the announcement of ST-42 — a fully autonomous orbital platform designed specifically for scalable manufacturing in space. Space Tango envisions a future where the next important breakthroughs in both technology and healthcare will occur off the planet, creating a new global market 250 miles up in low Earth orbit. For more information, visit

Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray and Kenny Allen

Diseases & Conditions:

Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's Disease

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