3D Tissue Chips

active Mission

Small devices about the size of a USB drive, 3D tissue chips replicate cells of specific organs – heart, pancreas, liver, and others. These allow researchers to test and observe how cells respond to various environmental factors, such as radiation and microgravity, and treatments, including medications and chemotherapy.




Dec. 5, 2018


International Space Station


Conduct biomedical research in microgravity
Image of a gloved hand and normal hand exchanging a colorful chip; text reads 3D tissue chips advanced biomedical research

Developing tissue chips that can be used for modeling of acute and/or chronic exposures for 6 months or longer

3D tissues and microphysiological systems (MPS) replicate human organs using organ-specific cells—such as heart, pancreatic, liver, and others—on small devices, roughly the size of a USB drive. Researchers and clinicians use these tissue chips to test and observe how cells respond to various environmental factors (such as radiation and microgravity) and treatments (including medications and chemotherapy). This effort, sponsored by NASA’s [RI1] [CL(D2] [CL(D3] Biological and Physical Sciences Division, reflects a collaboration between NASA’s Space Biology Program, NASA’s Human Research Program, NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), the NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the NIH National Cancer Institute (NCI), Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), and the FDA. The agencies selected nine projects that will adapt existing 3D tissues and microphysiological systems (MPS) — also known as “tissue chips” or “organs-on-chips” — to expand tissue viability and robust function for a minimum of 6 months and fully test and validate these models for acute and chronic stressors.

Why are 3D Tissue Chips important?

Innovative models, such as 3D Tissue Chips enable researchers to study how a patient might respond to a treatment so that therapy can be tailored to their personal response for improved clinical outcome.

Spaceflight Applications

3D Tissue Chips support fundamental science by helping NASA understand the physiological and mechanistic changes due to spaceflight stressors, such as microgravity and radiation. 3D Tissue Chips will help determine individual sensitivity for each astronaut allowing NASA to tailor countermeasures for their need to create a more personalized medical kit for long duration exploration missions.

Earth Applications

3D Tissue Chips provide insight into disease models, drug development, clinical trial design, and chemical/environmental exposures and countermeasures. In-depth characterization is a critical next step in the evolution of these technologies is, particularly when considering acute versus chronic exposures.

3D Tissue Chips Investigations