Space designers take flight to test bioengineered knee cartilage in low gravity
Members of a University of Alberta student club are walking on air after testing samples of bioengineered knee cartilage in a reduced-gravity experiment competition.
Amira Aissiou and Kirtan Dhunnoo of the University of Alberta Space Design Group strapped themselves in and went for a wild ride in the Canadian Space Agency’s Falcon 20 parabolic aircraft to get a closer molecular and genetic look at the development of osteoarthritis in microgravity—the very weak gravity astronauts experience.
“It was amazing — we felt like we were floating, and to be in this kind of lab felt very surreal,” said Aissiou, a medical student in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry who will now help interpret the data after the tissue samples are analyzed.
The out-of-this-world flight experiment was part of the Canadian Reduced Gravity Experiment Design Challenge, held this summer at the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) Aerospace Flight Research Laboratory and organized by SEDS-Canada, the Canadian Space Agency and NRC.
In their hour-long excursion in the skies near Ottawa, the students tested a device created by the team of 10 U of A engineering and medical students and alumni, and operated by project leaders Aissiou and Dhunnoo, who flew with it through 11 cycles of sloping, up-and-down flight that took them in and out of zero gravity.