Two teams of researchers from the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, have been awarded by NASA for their work on 3D printing human liver tissue (linked to the liver).
Team Winston, the first team to complete their test, will receive $ 300,000 and have the opportunity to continue their research aboard the US National Laboratory on the International Space Station (ISS). The WFIRM team will receive the second prize of $ 100,000.
Functional tissue in the laboratory
Scientists are distinguished by the additive manufacturing technique chosen to create these liver tissues. The two passed the major challenge of building a cube-shaped tissue approximately one centimeter thick and capable of functioning for 30 days in the lab.
They used 3D printing technologies to create gel-like molds, or scaffolds, with a network of channels designed to maintain sufficient oxygen and nutrient levels to keep the constructed tissues alive during their 30-day trials. .
The aim was to get as close as possible to the actual functioning of the organ in situ. Indeed, “the value of an artificial tissue depends entirely on how it mimics what is happening in the body “, explained Lynn Harper, lead for Integrative Studies at NASA.
Limit the effects of space travel
This work is part of the “Vascular Tissue Challenge” which rewards scientists capable of creating human vascularized organ tissue that is metabolically functional in a controlled laboratory environment. The aim is to advance research on regenerative medicine, in particular to mitigate the negative effects of space travel on the human body during long-term distant missions.
On Earth, vascularized tissue could be used in pharmaceutical tests or in disease modeling. The challenge could also accelerate research and development in the field of organ transplants.