Scientists 3D-print human liver tissue in a lab, win top prizes in NASA challenge

Scientists have efficiently grown liver tissue able to functioning for 30 days in the lab as a part of NASA’s Vascular Tissue Challenge.

In 2016, NASA put forth this competitors to search out groups that would “create thick, vascularized human organ tissue in an in-vitro environment to advance research and benefit medicine on long-duration missions and on Earth,” according to an agency challenge description. Today (June 9), the agency introduced not one, however two winners of the challenge. 

The two groups, each made up of scientists from the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) in North Carolina, received first and second place in the competitors with two totally different approaches to creating lab-grown human liver tissue. 

“I cannot overstate what an impressive accomplishment this is. When NASA started this challenge in 2016, we weren’t sure there would be a winner,” Jim Reuter, NASA affiliate administrator for space expertise, said in a statement. “It will be exceptional to hear about the first artificial organ transplant one day and think this novel NASA challenge might have played a small role in making it happen.”

Related: Why are scientists trying to manufacture organs in space? 

Team Winston’s engineered liver tissue held in a chamber to check to see if fluids and vitamins can movement by way of.  (Image credit score: Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine)

The successful groups each used 3D printing applied sciences to create their tissue. As dictated in the challenge guidelines, the groups needed to hold their tissues “alive” for 30-day trials. But, to engineer tissue and have it “survive,” the groups had to determine how one can transfer vitamins and oxygen by way of their creation and how one can take away waste. This course of, often known as perfusion, is completed by blood vessels in natural, dwelling tissues, however that is a particularly difficult factor to duplicate artificially. 

Using totally different supplies and totally different 3D-printed designs, the 2 groups every made totally different gel-like frameworks for his or her tissues that included channels that oxygen and vitamins might run by way of. The groups have been in a position to get vitamins to movement by way of their synthetic blood vessels with out leaking. 

The staff that received first place, known as staff Winston, is the primary staff to finish its trial with the engineered tissue underneath the challenge guidelines and can obtain $300,000 and the chance to additional this work aboard the International Space Station, in accordance with the assertion. The second-place staff, known as WFIRM, will obtain $100,000. 

But the challenge shouldn’t be but over. While these two rivals have taken house the top two prizes, two different groups proceed to work towards third place, which additionally receives a prize of $100,000.

3D-printing human tissues in space

How this expertise may in the future be utilized to healthcare for astronauts dwelling on locations just like the moon and Mars has but to be seen, however the researchers behind these initiatives acknowledge the various challenges that this utility presents. 

“There’s going to be zero gravity … space radiation, and we don’t know how these tissues or cells within the tissue would behave. So, there are so many unanswered questions,” James Yoo, a professor at WFIRM who’s a a part of staff Winston, informed Space.com throughout a media teleconference on June 9. However, he added, “We’re very optimistic about the tissue constructs being in space, and we hope that they would behave similarly [to how they behave on Earth].”

However, whereas these future purposes of tissue engineering have but to be seen, by finding out these buildings in space, similar to aboard the space station, researchers can considerably advance our understanding of how which may work. 

“The potential to study this technology further in space is really exciting,” Robyn Gatens, director of the International Space Station at NASA Headquarters, mentioned about tissue engineering through the telecon. “One of the benefits of this challenge for space exploration is the creation of organ analogs that we could use to study deep space environmental effects like radiation and microgravity deconditioning.” 

“As we prepare to go to the moon with the Artemis program, and one day onto Mars, we’ll need to develop strategies to minimize damage to astronauts’ healthy cells and mitigate the negative effects … space will have on humans during long-duration missions,” Gatens mentioned. She  added that conducting such assessments with organ analogs may also help to “ensure we’ll gain the knowledge to keep astronauts healthy as they journey further into space.”

NASA’s Vascular Tissue Challenge is led by the agency’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley and is a a part of the Centennial Challenges, a challenges, prizes and crowdsourcing program inside NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, in accordance with the assertion. For this competitors, NASA teamed with the nonprofit group New Organ Alliance, which focuses on regenerative medication analysis and growth and which additionally put collectively the nine-person judging panel. 

Email Chelsea Gohd at [email protected] or observe her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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