Out-of-This-World Research on Osteoporosis

Issue Date: 
July 11, 2016

Pitt Professor Rocky Tuan is contributing to research that will be conducted onboard the International Space Station (ISS).  He recently received a grant from the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) for his work on a 3-D microphysiological system to evaluate the accelerated aging and degeneration of bones that occur in space.

Rocky Tuan“Studying such rapid progression offers great advantages to developing treatments for osteoporosis faster and more effectively, in ways that are not possible on Earth,” said Tuan, who is the Arthur J. Rooney, Sr. Chair Professor in Sports Medicine in the School of Medicine’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. “Our research will benefit not only the health of astronauts for long stays in space on the ISS or a future journey to Mars, but also will help people on Earth, providing capabilities for the screening of drug therapies, enhancing personalized medicine, and developing  bioreactor technologies for tissue engineering.”

The award is part of the 3D Microphysiological Systems for Organs-On-Chips Grand Challenge by CASIS, which was chosen by NASA in 2011 to be the sole manager of the ISS U.S. National Laboratory. The June announcement was made at the White House Organ Summit.

Tuan is director of the Cellular and Molecular Engineering Lab and a Distinguished Professor in Orthopaedic Surgery. He is internationally known for his research in stem cell biology, musculoskeletal tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, and for his innovative leadership role in biomedical education. He also is associate director of Pitt’s McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine and director of the Center for Military Medicine Research.

With Tuan’s leadership, Pitt’s Center for Cellular and Molecular Engineering focuses on the science of treating injuries and diseases of the musculoskeletal system, using nanotechnology and mechanobiological principles in combination with bioreactor and biomaterials technologies, including 3-D printing, for functional skeletal tissue engineering and regeneration.