Scientists have been fixated on the idea of human cloning over the past decades. But this time, NASA is embarking on a joint challenge to those who can successfully develop human tissue that can withstand the harsh environment in outer space.
The challenge, in partnership with private science firm Methuselah Foundation’s New Organ Alliance, aims to bring the bioengineering technology to a higher level. Dubbed as the Vascular Tissue Challenge, the competition is open to all who can successfully develop a specialized vascular tissue that can withstand harsh conditions in deep space missions, Steve Jurczyk, NASA’s associate Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington said in a statement.
According to NASA, the first three teams that can successfully develop a functional and thick vascular tissue in a controlled laboratory environment will divide the pot prize of $500,000. Apart from its benefits in NASA’s deep space missions, the product of the challenge could revolutionize the healthcare technology here on Earth.
“When the Wright Brothers discovered how to control aircraft during flight for aviation in the early 1900s, there was an explosion of progress after this key barrier was removed,” said Methuselah Foundation CEO Dave Gobel. “In the same way, once the ‘vascularization limit’ is solved, via the NASA Vascular Tissue Challenge, there inevitably will be an historic advance in progress and commercialization of tissue engineering applications to everyone’s benefit.”
In space, the vascularized tissue could help address the negative effects of long travel in space, especially in deep space missions to astronauts and cosmonauts. Here on Earth, the same technology could potentially beneficial in developing different medicines as well as help with disease diagnosis. NASA added that the technology could also improve organ transplant in an unprecedented level on Earth.
The challenge is part of a series of initiatives under the program of the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) in partnership with various government agencies and private firms.