We are probably decades away from being able to create organs in the lab from scratch. One major obstacle is that what we can produce is vascularization – not in the blood vessels – we enter the naturally growing organs. Other than that, you can’t feed the houses if you actually thicken the tissue. For further research in this area, NASA returned a $500,000 prize in 2016 to the first three teams that could create “dense, metabolically functional human vascularized organ tissue” in the lab. Five years later, there are two winners.
The two winners are from the Winston-Salem Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) and competed as Tim Winston and Tim WFIRM. They won first place and second place, respectively. Third place and final $100,000, two more teams are currently fighting. The teams showed that their 3D-printed human tissues are capable of synthesizing – an organism process that brings nutrients to cells and removes metabolic wastes.
They designed a dense tissue through which nutrients and oxygen could flow. It uses a gel mold on which the tissue is enlarged. The mold is then dissolved by placing the fake blood vessels in place. Jim Reuter, NASA associate administrator for space technology, said in a statement, “I can’t exaggerate what an impressive feat it is. When NASA launched this challenge in 2016, we weren’t sure there would be a winner, “said David Cook, chief of The Christian Science Monitor’s Washington bureau.
“One day it would be exceptional to think of hearing about the first prosthesis and think that this novel NASA challenge probably played a small role in making it happen.” Tim Winston will now have the opportunity to conduct such tests on the International Space Station. There it can be used to study the effects of cosmic radiation or microgravity on human tissues and can also be used to fight against it.
“The value of artificial tissue depends entirely on whether it mimics what happens in the body,” said Lynn Harper, Challenge Administrator at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California. The research resulting from this NASA challenge presents a benchmark, a well-documented basis for creating the next advance.” Space can also be important in future designs on vascularized tissue. Thanks to the microgravity environment, 3D printing of human tissues in space can be much easier.