Trekkies may remember the dermal regenerator that Dr Beverley Crusher used to heal a wound on Commander Riker’s face in Star Trek: The Next Generation. In collaboration with Houston-based GRoK Technologies, NASA is now developing two similar handheld gadgets – BioReplicates and Scionic – that could soon be used by astronauts on the International Space Station.
BioReplicates regenerates human tissue and builds 3D human cells and will, together with another patent-pending device that treats pain externally, heal minor injuries almost instantly. It will also allow the creation of 3D human tissue models that could be used for drug and cosmetic testing, a scientific breakthrough that could completely eliminate animal testing.
The second device, Scionic, will treat musculoskeletal pain and inflammation externally. It could potentially eliminate pain through skin applications without the use of drugs. A similar device is already in use at the Russian Federal Space Agency (RKA). The Russian version, called Scenar, sends mild electrical signal through the person’s skin to affect the central nervous system and brain. The brain reacts to it similarly as with painkillers.
A common occurrence in space is a condition called osteopenia which, due to weak or non-existent gravity, affects astronauts’ bone and accelerates muscle loss. The new patents could be used to regenerate the tissue. If these gadgets successfully pass all the testing phases, they will join numerous other designs pioneered by sci-fi films which have been actually developed in recent years.