Could that quaint stem cell experiment done by Mark Shuttleworth in the International Space Station represent the future of biotechnology?
By: Ringo Bones
South African I.T. entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth – whose trip to the International Space Station back in April 2002 not only made him the first African to go into space, but also, one of the experiments that he did on the ISS at the time could signal a brand-new industry, namely “space-based biotechnology”. This is more than just a good thing because even now, more than 15 years after Shuttleworth’s so-called working vacation in the ISS, the only serious money-making enterprise of our current space exploration programs is space tourism. Could the manufacture of useful pharmaceutical and biological products in the weightless conditions of low-Earth-orbit be a source of serious money that might make space travel finally pay its way in a an economically viable manner?
Though quite controversial when Mark Shuttleworth did the experiment back in 2002 in the International Space Station nonetheless given that this was the height of the US President George Dubya Bush era “conservatism” where anything remotely related to stem cells is taboo to his voting constituency, it did manage to generate groundbreaking knowledge hitherto unknown before Shuttleworth got the resulting data of his experiment. The result of Shuttleworth’s stem cell experiments in the weightless conditions of the International Space Station back in 2002 had shown that stem cells in the weightless conditions of low-Earth-orbit develop into a form that’s far more useful for medical use. According to Mark Shuttleworth; “Understanding these cells holds the key to healing serious injuries where the cells in one part of the body have been damaged beyond repair.”