How Zero Gravity Can Reveal Basic Biological Questions

17:11 minutes

astronaut in striped shirt on space station carrying half circle instrument
Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko with the magnetic bioassembler. Credit: Vladislav A. Parfenov and Stanislav V. Petrov, Laboratory for Biotechnological Research

Astronauts have conducted all sorts of experiments in the International Space Station—from observations of microgravity on the human to body to growing space lettuce. But recently, cosmonauts bioengineered human cartilage cells into 3D structures aboard the station, using a device that utilizes magnetic levitation. 

The results were recently published in the journal Science Advances. Electrical engineer Utkan Demirci and stem cell biologist Alysson Muotri join Ira to chat about what removing gravity can reveal about basic biological questions, and how you design experiments to run in space. 

a graphic showing the instrument with arrows pointing to other scientific instruments, a rocket, and a parachute
The schematic illustration of the space experiment. Credit: Parfenov, et. al

Further Reading

Donate To Science Friday

Invest in quality science journalism by making a donation to Science Friday.


Segment Guests

Utkan Demirci

Utkan Demirci is Co-division Chief and Co-Director of the Canary Center at Stanford for Cancer Early Detection, and a professor of Radiology at Stanford University School of Medicine in Stanford, California.

Alysson Muotri

Alysson Muotri is a professor of Pediatrics and Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of California San Diego in La Jolla, California.

Meet the Producers and Host

About Alexa Lim

Alexa Lim was a senior producer for Science Friday. Her favorite stories involve space, sound, and strange animal discoveries.

About John Dankosky

John Dankosky works with the radio team to create our weekly show, and is helping to build our State of Science Reporting Network. He’s also been a long-time guest host on Science Friday. He and his wife have three cats, thousands of bees, and a yoga studio in the sleepy Northwest hills of Connecticut. 

Explore More