NASA To Advance Bioengineering In A Big Way
NASA, in partnership with the nonprofit Methuselah Foundation’s New Organ Alliance, has announced a new competition with a $500,000 prize to be divided among the first three teams that successfully create thick, metabolically functional human vascularized organ tissue in a controlled laboratory environment, in an effort to advance the field of bioengineering.
Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington said “The outcome of this challenge has the potential to revolutionize healthcare on Earth, and could become part of an important set of tools used to minimize the negative effects of deep space on our future explorers.”
The vascularized, thick-tissue models resulting from this challenge will function as organ analogs, or models, that can be used to study deep space environmental effects and develop strategies to minimize the damage to healthy cells.
The new challenge was announced as part of White House Organ Summit, which highlighted efforts to improve outcomes for individuals waiting for organ transplants and support for living donors.
The Vascular Tissue Challenge prize purse is provided by NASA’s Centennial Challenges Program, part of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, however the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), which manages the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory, has announced a follow-on prize competition and will provide one team up to $200,000, in partnership with the New Organ Alliance and the Methuselah Foundation, that will provide researchers the opportunity to conduct research in microgravity conditions.
Jurczyk said “The humans who will be our deep space pioneers are our most important resource on the Journey to Mars and beyond.”
The New Organ Alliance, which is administering the competition on behalf of NASA, is a nonprofit organization focused on regenerative medicine research and development to benefit human disease research and tissue engineering.