Scientists have successfully grown viable liver tissue for 30 days in a lab. as part of NASA’s Vascular Tissue Challenge.
In 2016 NASA organized this competition to find teams that could “Building thickened human organ tissue in an in vitro environment to advance research and deliver medical benefits in long-term missions and on Earth,” according to the agency’s challenge description. Only one winner of the competition was announced. but two winners
Both teams consisted of scientists from the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) in North Carolina. Grab first and second place in the competition with two different methods of lab-grown human liver tissue.
“I can̵7;t exaggerate how impressive this achievement is. When NASA started this challenge in 2016, we weren’t confident there would be a winner,” NASA co-administrator Jim Reuter said in a statement. “It would have been special to hear about the first prosthetic implant one day. And I think this new challenge for NASA may have played a small role in making it happen.”
Related: Why are scientists trying to produce organs in space?
Both winning teams used 3D printing technology to create their tissues. as set forth in the challenge rules The team had to keep their tissue “living” for a 30-day experiment, but to build the tissue and “survive” it had to figure out how to move nutrients and oxygen through generation and waste disposal. This process, known as perfusion, is performed by blood vessels in living organic tissue. But this is extremely tricky to replicate artificially.
Using different materials and different 3D printing designs. Both teams created different gel-like frameworks for their tissues. This includes channels through which oxygen and nutrients can flow. The team was able to get nutrients to flow through the artificial blood vessels without leaking.
The team that won 1st place, called Team Winston, was the first team to complete a tissue trial designed under the Challenge Rules and will receive $300,000 and the opportunity to continue this work on the International Space Station accordingly. statement The second place team called WFIRM will receive $100,000.
But the challenge is not over. While these two contestants took home the first two trophies. The other two teams continued to advance to third place. which also received a $100,000 prize.
3D printing human tissue in space
How this technology might one day be used in healthcare for astronauts living on destinations like the Moon and Mars may yet be seen. But the researchers behind these projects acknowledge the many challenges this application presents.
“There will be zero gravity … radiation in space. And we don’t know how these tissues or cells within the tissue will behave. So there are a lot of questions that remain unanswered,” James Yu, a professor at WFIRM who is part of the Winston team, told Space.com during a media conference on June 9. “We are optimistic about the tissue structure in space. And we hope they behave similarly. [to how they behave on Earth]”
However, while no one has seen any future applications of these tissue engineering, By studying these structures in space, such as on space stations, researchers can greatly improve our understanding of how they work.
“The potential to study this technology further in space is very exciting,” said Robyn Gatens, ISS director at NASA headquarters. analogues that we can use to study environmental impacts in space, such as radiation and microgravity reduction.”
“As we prepare to go to the moon with the Artemis program and one day to Mars, We must develop strategies to minimize damage to astronauts’ healthy cells and minimize the impact … space will have on humans for a long-term mission,” Gatens said. She added that similar organ testing could help. give “I’m sure we’ll gain the knowledge to keep astronauts healthy as they continue their journey in space.”
NASA’s Vascular Tissue Challenge is led by the agency’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley and is part of the Centennial Challenges, a challenge, award, and crowdsourcing program within NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. For this competition, NASA partnered with New Organ. Non-Profit Alliance which focuses on research and development of regenerative medicine and brings together a panel of nine judges.
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