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  The Herman Trend Alert

May 11, 2022

Stem Cells in Space

If you are a regular reader of the Herman Trend Alert, last week you learned how scientists in Poland are helping people grow back damaged teeth, using stem cells. In a way, this week is a continuation of that topic. While attending the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, I was fortunate enough to meet Olivia Holzhaus, MS, CEO and Founder of Rhodium Scientific, and her colleague Heath Mills, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer for R&D and Commercial Sciences. I was fascinated to hear about their research into stem cells and other cells, and how these cells are affected by microgravity. This Alert will highlight some of the projects of Rhodium Scientific and others using the International Space Station (ISS) and space.

Years of Stem Cell Research in Space
Construction on the ISS began in 1998, and since then thousands of experiments have been carried out on board. One of the first stem cell experiments on tissue regeneration in space was published back in 2014 by NASA's Elizabeth Blaber. More recently, other stem cell investigations by other scientists have included research on cultured human heart stem cells, and another investigation on the production of human tissue under weightlessness conditions. Moreover, in 2020, the first 3D models of Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis made from patient stem cells were studied in microgravity.

Accelerating this Research
One of the challenges facing scientists was how to transport the stem cells to and from ISS. In March 2017, researchers began using the Plate Habitat (PHAB) containing BioCell cassettes. This device facilitated the expanded stem cell investigation aboard the space station. ISS is home to the United States' only national lab in microgravity.

Mimicking Microgravity on Earth is Problematic
Obviously, having an Earth-bound simulator of microgravity would be very helpful. However, though there is a machine that can simulate microgravity, it produces different data sets. To produce the microgravity that will promote faster stem cell growth, the machine uses freefall. Unfortunately, in the process, the cells are "confused" by the different forces and possibly damaged.

The Human Immune System Deteriorates in Space
After studying the many astronauts, they have determined that being in space causes the human immune system to take a hit. They do not yet know exactly why, other than the fact that there are additional mental and physical stressors, including space radiation, on human bodies in space. We also know that heart muscle changes in microgravity environments and changes back upon return to Earth.

3D Printing for Health
One of the areas of study pursued by Rhodium is establishing biomanufacturing processes for human systems in remote environments. Imagine being in remote areas of the planet, like Antarctica or on Mars and needing to help people heal. I think of it as 3D printing for healing. Recent studies have shown that spaceflight affects the composition and function of microscopic populations of cells in the human body. A better understanding of these effects could help harness microbial production to produce key chemical compounds that could be used in remote, resource-limited environments.

The Good (and Not-So-Good) Bacteria in our Guts
The bacteria in the stomach and intestines play an essential role in human health and wellbeing. The combination of bacteria found there is called the "Gut Microbiome." When that gut microbiome is out of balance, it can often lead to health complications. One of the experiments that Rhodium Scientific conducted looked at viruses that prey on bacteria and only bacteria; they happen to be the most plentiful organisms on Earth. They infect other bacteria to reproduce, then they kill the bacteria. For many decades, scientists have known that these viruses can destroy harmful bacteria without killing healthy human cells or beneficial bacteria in the human body---and they have been instrumental in the development of effective and targeted antibiotic therapies.

What This Research Could Mean for You
Stem cells and examining the effects of microgravity could at some point in the not-too-distant future mean the difference between life and death for human beings, especially children with rare diseases who will benefit. In fact, the National Stem Cell Foundation (NSCF) 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, if you are looking for an opportunity to help a precious little girl with one such rare disease, visit and donate today.

Next Week's Herman Trend Alert: Deleveling: A Mistake Many Employers Make
Many misguided employers are being penny-wise and pound foolish. They think they are saving money by hiring (especially young people) into levels that are below their real ability and pay grade. They promise that once the new employees "prove themselves," the money and promotions will come. Then, it often takes years for them to reach the level at which they should have been hired. I will explore both the applicant and employer perspective and why this business model is really a bad idea.

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Some weeks ago, our own author, Joyce recorded the third episode of her own show on and It's Your Future with Joyce Gioia debuted last month in various timeslots---due to time zones. The third episode features Joyce talking about The Future of Hospitality. To access the show on radio, visit RadioFutures. Eventually, will offer the listings for all the appearances.

Hosted by the Association of Profesional Futurists and the Dubai Futures Foundation, the event will convene the world's top futurists to anticipate challenges, imagine opportunities, share foresight, and shape the future. For more information, watch this space.

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