CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA is about to announce the winners of its latest Centennial Challenge to grow human tissue in a lab, and you can watch the action live online.
On Wednesday (June 9), the space agency will announce the top two winners of a competition to grow and sustain human tissue in a laboratory here on Earth. The contest, which NASA announced five years ago, is part of a larger challenge to spur the technology developments needed to go to Mars while also improving life on Earth.
You can watch the launch action live here and on the Space.com homepage, courtesy of NASA, or you can watch it directly from the agency here.
NASA’s Centennial Challenge program launched in 2005 to “generate revolutionary solutions to problems of interest to NASA and the nation,” according to the agency. Other challenges have focused on 3D printed habitats, space robotics, and converting carbon dioxide into sugars.
For this challenge, researchers from 11 different teams across the country attempted to create hunks of lab-grown human tissues for thick-walled organs, like the heart, lung, liver and kidney. The tissue needed to be at least 0.39 inches (1 centimeter) thick, and the team had to keep it functioning for 30 days. A total of $500,000 was up for grabs.
NASA has said that three teams will receive prize money, with the winners being announced on a live news broadcast Wednesday afternoon. The first-place winner will also have the chance to send a research investigation to the International Space Station as part of an effort to expand their research.
This type of lab-grown vascularized tissue could help researchers better model diseases and improve the development of new therapeutics for long-term deep-space missions.
One of the 11 participating teams, Techshot, has already sent hardware into space that could one day print human tissue in orbit. Their Biofabrication Facility (BFF) launched on a SpaceX cargo resupply mission in 2019. That project aims to 3D print tissues and even human organs — such as hearts or lungs. The technology relies on adult human cells and adult tissue-derived proteins, or chains of amino acids, as source material for viable tissue.
The BFF printed several samples of cardiac tissue before it returned to Earth for some upgrades. BFF’s next flight to the space station will be later this summer, as it rides to orbit on a Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft.
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