The MEPS operations in microgravity brought together two liquids incapable of mixing on Earth (80 percent water and 20 percent oil) in such a way that spontaneously caused liquid-filled microcapsules to form as spherical, tiny, liquid-filled bubbles surrounded by a thin, semipermeable outer membrane.
In space, surface tension shapes liquids into spheres. Each molecule on a liquid's surface is pulled with equal tension by its neighbors. The closely integrated molecules form into the smallest possible area, which is a sphere. In effect, the MEPS-II system allowed a combination of liquids in a bubble shape because surface tension forces took over and allowed the fluids to interface rather than sit atop one another.
"We were able to figure out what parameters we needed to control so we could make the same kind of microcapsules on the ground," said Morrison. "Now, we no longer have to go to space. Space was our teacher, our classroom to figure out how we could make these on Earth."
Though the MEPS-II technology was produced on the space station in 2002, the ensuing global economic struggles and funding hurdles made it difficult to raise investor capital for new clinical trials of the microcapsules in humans. This gap in the research slowed movement from discovery to an actual product that improves human health.
The MEPS-II system is now being brought to commercial scale under U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Good Manufacturing Practice requirements by NuVue. NuVue exclusively licensed the MEPS technology for medical uses, including the treatment of cancer. These cancer therapies are now the subject of several patents and patent pending applications.
Commercialization of the MEPS technology and methods to develop new applications for these unique microcapsules ha
|Contact: Laura Niles|
NASA/Johnson Space Center