NASA Highlights Winners of Challenge to Engineer Human Tissue

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  June 07, 2021 
NASA Highlights Winners of Challenge to Engineer Human Tissue
3D image of a human torso's bones and vascular system.
Credits: icetray/123RF

NASA will announce the first- and second-place winners of the Vascular Tissue Challenge, a prize competition to grow and sustain functioning human tissue in a lab, Wednesday, June 9. Experts will answer questions about the teams’ tissue engineering techniques during a special episode of NASA Science Live and media briefing.

The NASA Science Live episode will air at 3 p.m. EDT on NASA Television, the NASA app, the agency’s website, the NASA Facebook, NASA Twitter and NASA YouTube channels. Viewers can submit questions on social media platforms using #AskNASA.

NASA will follow the broadcast with a media teleconference at 4:30 p.m., with audio streaming live on the agency’s website.

The Vascular Tissue Challenge is a competition to increase the pace of bioengineering innovations to benefit humans on Earth and future space explorers. Researchers attempted to create lab-grown human tissues for a thick-walled organ – like the heart, lung, liver, or kidney – and keep it alive and functioning during a trial period.

The first team to demonstrate tissue survival and function for the duration of a 30-day trial will receive $300,000. The first-place team also will have the opportunity to advance its research on the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory. The next two teams that successfully complete trails will win $100,000 each.

Media interested in participating should email Molly Porter at molly.a.porter@xxxxxxxx by 4 p.m. Wednesday, June 9. Teleconference participants will include: 

  • Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters.
  • Robyn Gatens, director of the International Space Station at Headquarters.  
  • Monsi Roman, Centennial Challenges manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
  • Lynn Harper, challenge administrator and lead of integrative studies at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.
  • Representatives from the winning teams.
  • Michael Roberts, interim chief scientist at the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (manager of the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory) and judge for the Vascular Tissue Challenge.

The Vascular Tissue Challenge, a NASA Centennial Challenge, began in 2016 and has engaged teams of problem solvers from the public, industry, and academia to help push the boundaries of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. On Earth and in space, improved lab-grown vascularized tissue could be used for better disease modeling and could accelerate related research for organ transplants, as well as development of new therapeutics for long-term deep space missions.

For more NASA prizes, challenges, and crowdsourcing opportunities, go to:



Press Contacts

Clare Skelly
Headquarters, Washington

Molly Porter 
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.


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