Growing cells – in a laboratory in space or on earth – forms a fundamental basis of modern microbiology, supporting everything from culturing microbes to novel drug design and growing human tissues for use in research and development. The problem is that cells grown on a 2D Petri dish do not come to resemble the real world – cells grow in three dimensions, not two. So Professor Stefan Przyborski from Durham University obtained BBSRC funding and set about developing a system that would prevent cells from spreading out thinly as they do on conventional 2D culture plates. Przyborski co-founded the spin-out company Reinnervate in 2002 to commercialise his 3D cell culture system, known as Alvetex, which now has more than 1500 customers around the world. Now the 3D cell culture system is set to fly to the International Space Station in late 2014. One of Reinnervate’s customers is Associate Professor Paola Divieti-Pajevic of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and she is using the system to research how microgravity affects the ways cells grow and communicate in space. The experiments are funded by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases of the National Institutes of Health.