Callerio Foundation
NEWS - NASA, November 7 2012

Microsystems for the delivery of drugs produced on the International Space Station

Dr. D. Morrison, the developer of the microsystems production plant that was validated on ISS in a condition of micro-gravity. The prototype was developed at NASA Johnson Space Center, USA.

The International Space Station (ISS) will celebrate 14 years of operations in November 2012. Within ISS is operative an international science laboratory hosting state-of-the-art scientific facilities that support fundamental and applied research across the range of physical and biological sciences.

Among the biological activities, a field of interest also to us, there will be summarized the Microencapsulation Electrostatic Processing System (MEPS) Facility, developed by dr. D. Morrison. The main purpose of this facility is to evaluate the effectiveness of an automated system to be used to produce liquid-filled microsystems (MS) (micro-balloons). The microgravity environment on the station was an enabling environment that led the way to better methods of microcapsule development on Earth.
Microsystems have been developed in order to deliver more efficiently Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved anti-cancer drugs. The microgravity environment on ISS was ideal for the spontaneous forming of balloons on micrometric scale using immiscible liquids containing drugs. MEPS is a very flexible system capable to volumetrically process, in its two chambers, up to six chemical constituents stored in its six reservoirs. Beside this, the MS’ membranes can be electrically charged in order to make MS less recognizable as a foreign invader to the immune system.

The use of such MS will be helpful in the treatment of a number of diseases e.g. diabetes and cancer. In the case of diabetic patients, the subcutaneously implanted MS, charged with insulin, could represent a future replacement of the daily multiple injections. For what the tumour-bearing patients is concerned, MS will be used to deliver drugs directly to the cancer cells. This method can replace traditional anti-cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, that involves large quantities of drugs administered systemically. Investigations performed on ground-based facilities already demonstrated that the MS produced in micro-gravity conditions were effective in inhibiting the growth of human prostate and lung tumours.
With a similar aim, in the laboratories of Callerio Foundation Onlus we have developed an innovative plant prototype capable to process high viscosity feed solutions, overcoming the limitation of systems that are in the same range of cost but that employ different productive technologies. Orally administered MS, obtained with this production plant, protect the bioactive principles from low gastric pH values and can vehicle them to the circulatory system very efficiently also throughout the gut-associated lymphatic tissue.

A simplified scheme of the microsystems’ production plant validated on ISS in condition of micro-gravity.


Morrison DR, Haddad RS, Ficht A. Microencapsulation of Drugs: New cancer therapies and improved drug delivery derived from microgravity research. Proceedings of the 40th Space Congress, Cape Canaveral, Fla. Apr 2003.

Le Pivert P, Haddad RS, Aller A, Titus K, Doulat J, Renard M, Morrison DR. Ultrasound Guided, Combined Cryoablation and Microencapsulated 5-Fluorouracil, Inhibits Growth of Human Prostate Tumors in Xenogenic Mouse Model Assessed by Fluorescence Imaging. Technology in Cancer Research and Treatment. 3(2):135–42, 2004.

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