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Vascular Tissue Challenge Update

NASA and Methuselah Foundation’s VTC Challenge

One Year in, the Vascular Tissue Challenge Teams are Moving Forward

July 13, 2017

Last June, the Methuselah Foundation and NASA officially launched the Vascular Tissue Challenge (VTC) at the White House Organ Summit, hosted by the Office of Science and Technology Policy. The VTC includes a $500,000 prize purse from NASA for the first teams that can successfully create thick (>1cm), vascularized tissues that remain functional and alive for more than 30 days. Along with this is the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space’s (CASIS) “Innovations in Space Award,” providing an additional $200,000 to support a research opportunity onboard the International Space Station’s National Laboratory!

With the one year mark just behind us, we thought it was fitting to check in with the teams and see how they’re doing. There’s been a lot happening to advance these amazing bioengineering technologies over the last 12 months!

TEAM UPDATES

Since launching the Vascular Tissue Challenge, seven research organizations officially signed on to pursue the challenge of creating the thick, vascularized tissues required to win the $700,000 in awards along with the opportunity to pursue further research using the microgravity environment onboard the International Space Station. Each team is pursuing a different approach to creating the thick, vascularized tissues, and each has their own unique strategies and hurdles ahead. Here is a quick snapshot of what some of the teams have been doing and what they are planning for their next steps toward winning the Challenge before the sunset of the award at the end of 2019.

Team: iTEAMS, Stanford University | Team Leader: Dr. Yunzhi “Peter” Yang

Over the past year, iTEAMS has proposed and proved an integrated multi-scale, multi-modular system approach to overcome the challenges and tradeoff in functional vasculature requirements between major vascular lasting perfusion and capillary rapid sprouting and extensive coverage for diffusion. The former requires a slowly degradable biomaterial for sustained perfusion and the latter requires a fast biodegradable biomaterial for rapid sprouting and diffusion.

The next steps being pursued are an optimization of perusable channel pathways, biomaterial candidates, and fabrication parameters. A critical upcoming milestone is to demonstrate functional microvasculature at a large scale for a long term in vitro. Team iTEAMS is working towards conducting their Vascular Tissue Challenge trials in 2018.

Team: BioPrinter, Florida Institute of Technology  |  Team Leader: Dr. Kunal Mitra

Dr. Mitra and his team have developed a self-contained bioprinting system that is being used for bioprinting tissue samples with high resolution and cell viability. They plan to use this printer to develop a sacrificial technique of bioprinting channels within a tissue sample. These channels will be used for the exchange of nutrients to cells needed to maintain viable tissue for an extended period of time. Currently, research is being conducted with various concentrations of bioink to obtain optical values that will result in high quality bioprinted tissue samples. In parallel, research on sacrificial techniques to create channels for nutrient flow is being conducted. The team anticipates that an official trial for the Vascular Tissue Challenge to be initiated in 2018.

Team: Flow, Maize, and Blue, University of Michigan  | Team Leader: Dr. Ming-Sing, Si

The team has built a perfusion bioreactor that it is currently optimizing for customized tissue engineered vascular networks. Dr. Si and his team hope to accomplish long-term perfusion of these vascular networks in the next 6 months with an official Vascular Tissue Challenge trial occurring sometime after that research is completed.

Team: TechshotTeam Leader: Dr. Eugene Boland

Last summer, Techshot began formal efforts toward winning the Vascular Tissue Challenge by 3D printing biological materials and adult stem cells into vascular and cardiac structures on board a Zero Gravity Corporation aircraft. Test structures were printed during cycles of both zero G and high G forces, permitting evaluation of low viscosity, biological material printing in multiple gravity environments. As expected, the cycles of microgravity facilitated layer-by-layer printing of 3D structures with very low viscosities (these materials become puddles if printed on the ground). The team’s next large step forward is a “Tissue Cassette” experiment that will be conducted this summer. Building upon last summer’s work, Techshot will bioprint larger cardiac and vascular structures within a specialized container, a bioreactor they refer to as a “Tissue Cassette”. This Tissue Cassette will not only provide an appropriate environment for culturing the 3D printed structure, it will impart physical and electrical cues to accelerate cell growth and tissue development. The bioreactor will also permit perfusion of the 3D bioprinted structure to further support cell growth in the larger printed volume. The planned experiments will start by bioprinting identical sets of cardiac and vascular structures with an initial print size of 20mm x 30mm x 10mm. One set will stay on the ground. The second set will be loaded into a Techshot ADSEP system and launched to the International Space Station aboard SpaceX Cargo Dragon (CRS-12) on August 1, 2017. These experiments will provide insight into bioprinted cell behavior in microgravity and the associated differences in tissue development. This will provide a preliminary test of the technology Techshot plans to use for their Vascular Tissue Challenge trials that they expect to conduct after getting these results back.

Team Penn State, Pennsylvania State University  |  Team Leader: Dr. Ibrahim Ozbolat

Dr. Ozbolat’s team has made substantial progress with their research on micro-vascularization in engineered islets. In addition, the team has scaled up tissue constructs to a sub-cm3 level and are working on expanding to the cm3 level for the VTC trial. They have demonstrated viable vascularization with mouse cells and are currently conducting research to overcome technical issues with the co-culture of stem cell-derived human beta cells and microvascular endothelial cells. Finalizing the research to reach vascularization with these cells at the cm3 level is the next critical step for this team, which they expect to take them into 2018 before conducting their final trials for the VTC.

 Team WFIRM Bioprinting, Wake Forest University  |  Team Leader: Dr. Anthony Atala

Contact: Dr. Sang-Jin Lee

During the past year, the WFIRM Bioprinting Team was focusing on the development of tissue-specific bioink systems that could mimic the microenvironments of each target tissues. The team assumes that these tissue-specific bioink systems can enhance the cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions that can accelerate tissue maturation/formation and functions. Up next in the team’s research is to combine microvasculature created by endothelial cells with tissue-specific printed constructs. They plan to investigate the effects of endothelialized microvasculature on cell viability and tissue-specific functions of the tissue-specific printed constructs. It is not yet clear when the team’s VTC trials will start, more will be known after their next research projects are completed.

 

Team Vital Organs, Rice University  |  Team Leader: Dr. Jordan Miller

At Rice University, Team Vital Organs is continuing to build out their 3D printing technology, characterizing the precision, cell viability and activity, designing assays for tissue assessment, and designing proper vascular architectures for complete tissue integration. Perfusion systems are complicated, but the team has a new large incubator that can now accommodate their proposed perfusion systems for the VTC. They are now working on validating long-term sterility and measurements from longitudinal assays. Dr. Miller and his lab are looking forward to finishing these feasibility studies and putting together an official trial to win the Vascular Tissue Challenge within the next year.

Please click on the links for additional Information about the New Organ Alliance or the Vascular Tissue Challenge.

Organovo Collaborates With Professor Melissa Little for Kidney Tissue Research

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SAN DIEGO and MELBOURNE, Australia and SPRINGFIELD, Va., Jan. 24, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Organovo Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ:ONVO) (“Organovo”), a three-dimensional biology company focused on delivering scientific and medical breakthroughs using its 3D bioprinting technology, today announced a collaboration with Professor Melissa Little and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, The Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, Australia to develop an architecturally correct kidney for potential therapeutic applications.  The collaboration has been made possible by a generous gift from the Methuselah Foundation (“Methuselah”) as part of its ongoing University 3D Bioprinter Program.

“Partnerships with world-class institutions can accelerate groundbreaking work in finding cures for critical unmet disease needs and the development of implantable therapeutic tissues,” said Keith Murphy, CEO, Organovo.  “This collaboration with Professor Little’s lab is another important step in this direction.  With the devoted and ongoing support of the Methuselah Foundation, leading researchers are able to leverage Organovo’s powerful technology platform to achieve significant breakthroughs.”

“We have developed an approach for recreating human kidney tissue from stem cells,” said Professor Melissa Little, Theme Director of Cell Biology at Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.  “Using Organovo’s bioprinter will give us the opportunity to bioprint these cells into a more accurate model of the kidney.  While initially important for modelling disease and screening drugs, we hope that this is also the first step towards regenerative medicine for kidney disease.  We are very grateful to Organovo and the Methuselah Foundation for this generous support, which will enable us to advance our research with the first Organovo bioprinter in the southern hemisphere.”

Under Methuselah Foundation’s University 3D Bioprinter Program, Methuselah is donating at least $500,000 in direct funding to be divided among several institutions for Organovo bioprinter research projects.  This funding will cover budgeted bioprinter costs and key aspects of project execution.

“We at the Methuselah Foundation have been a long-time supporter of academic and industry research in 3D bioprinting, regenerative medicine, and tissue engineering,” said David Gobel, CEO, Methuselah Foundation. “Our University 3D Bioprinter Program puts Organovo’s breakthrough 3D bioprinting technology in the hands of the brightest scientists at tissue engineering centers of excellence.”

About Organovo Holdings, Inc.

Organovo designs and creates functional, three-dimensional human tissues for use in medical research and therapeutic applications.  The Company develops 3D human tissue models through internal development and in collaboration with pharmaceutical, academic and other partners.  Organovo’s 3D human tissues have the potential to accelerate the drug discovery process, enabling treatments to be developed faster and at lower cost.  The Company’s ExVive Human Liver and Kidney Tissues are used in toxicology and other preclinical drug testing.  The Company also actively conducts early research on specific tissues for therapeutic use in direct surgical applications.  In addition to numerous scientific publications, the Company’s technology has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, The Economist, Forbes, and numerous other media outlets.  Organovo is changing the shape of life science research and transforming medical care.  Learn more at www.organovo.com.

About Murdoch Childrens Research Institute

Murdoch Childrens undertakes research into infant, child and adolescent health.  As the largest child health research institute in Australia, our 1500 researchers are working hard to translate the knowledge we create from our research into effective prevention, early intervention and treatments for children.  We strive for a healthier community, fewer sick kids visiting hospitals, and the best possible care for children who unfortunately become ill.  The Murdoch Childrens has a proud history of scientific discovery since its inception in 1986, and is currently based at The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia.  For more information please visit: www.mcri.edu.au.

About Methuselah Foundation

The Methuselah Foundation is a non-profit medical charity working to create a world where 90 year olds can have the health profile of 50 year olds, by 2030.  By opportunistically leveraging resources, enabling partnerships, and awarding prizes and grants, we accelerate disruptive developments in biomedical engineering that will eradicate needless suffering and extend healthy human life.  For more information please visit: www.methuselahfoundation.org and www.neworgan.org.

Scientists Correct Mutated Gene that Causes Sickle Cell Disease in Stem Cells

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For the first time, scientists were able to correct the genetic mutation that causes sickle cell disease in stem cells.

In a collaborative effort, researchers at UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI), and the University of Utah School of Medicine fixed the mutation in modified stem cells from patients with the condition using a CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing approach.

The study, “Selection-free genome editing of the sickle mutation in human adult hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells,” was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The scientists hope to re-infuse patients with the modified stem cells and alleviate disease symptoms.

“We’re very excited about the promise of this technology,” Jacob Corn, senior author on the study and scientific director of the Innovative Genomics Initiative at UC Berkeley, said in a news release. “There is still a lot of work to be done before this approach might be used in the clinic, but we’re hopeful that it will pave the way for new kinds of treatment for patients with sickle cell disease.”

The researchers observed in mice tests that after transplants, the modified stem cells stuck around for about four months, an important target of the long-lasting potential of any therapy.

“This is an important advance because for the first time we show a level of correction in stem cells that should be sufficient for a clinical benefit in persons with sickle cell anemia,” said Mark Walters, a pediatric hematologist and oncologist and director of UCSF Benioff Oakland’s Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program and co-author of the study.

Read more info here

These companies search for a cure to aging– and their discoveries are amazing

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The ideas surrounding life enhancement are not new—in fact, records show an interest in the mysteries surrounding human life for centuries.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein explores the idea of creating a life, while Doctor Who achieves life extension through regeneration. Wolverine’s mutations let him heal away his problems, and Captain America froze himself into the 21st century. Just look at almost any Star Trek episode and you’ll see how fascinated people are with the idea of extending life.

These ideas are starting to extend beyond science fiction. What was once seen as fiction is, in fact, highly relevant in today’s scientific community. Life extension research lives in academia at the moment, but it’s also graining traction in nonprofit foundations and national organizations.

This scientific field aims not only to discover the solutions to life’s unanswered aging questions, but also allow humanity to “live long and prosper.”

Why bother with this research?

The “holy grail” of the life extension industry is the cure to aging (obviously) and its discovery would change the course of human history forever.

However, when looking at life extension from the viewpoint of the Average Joe, there are many very real, personal, and emotional reasons which can be tied to the desire for those extra years.

“Seeing friends and family age can be difficult to go through,” said Dr. Chris Barton, assistant professor of biology at Belmont University in Nashville, TN. “As a result, I think that we are becoming more conscious of the aging process and more intentional about trying to find ways to delay it.”

When did life extension research really begin?

 

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Hopefully Calico doesn’t go the way of Google Glass. (Credit: Calico)

Interest in life extension has existed for decades– one of the largest booms in life extension research began in the 1990s. In 1992, The American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine was established to explore the mysteries behind our bodies’ aging process.

From then the new millennium began, and with it came companies such as the Methuselah Foundation, co-founded by Dave Gobel and Dr. Aubrey de Grey in 2003, and through its leadership came the “Strategies for

Engineered Negligible Senescence,” or SENS Research Foundation, founded in 2009. In 2013, Google announced its new company Calico, who under the leadership of Arthur D. Levinson would focus on human health in relation to aging and its associated diseases.

“Nothing breeds success better than success,” Dr. Barton explained when reviewing the recent boom in anti-aging research out of these foundations. “While many of these advancements are in basic science research, it is really this foundational understanding of aging that has allowed us to detect and treat numerous aging-related diseases.

“If you look at the life expectancy data from 1960 to today, people are clearly living longer”—life expectancy in the United States alone jumped from age 70 in 1960 to age 79 in 2014, according to The World Bank. “We are currently more effective in treating conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other aging-related diseases than we were 30 years ago. I think the recent success we’ve had in these areas is developing an excitement for aging research that can perhaps generate discoveries and technologies that may even further extend our life expectancy,” he continued.

The different areas of life extension research

These companies challenge current researchers and scientists to study the mysteries surrounding aging. The Methuselah Foundation focuses on Organovo and the ability to 3D print functional human tissues with hopes of creating functioning organs, while the SENS Research Foundation focuses on rejuvenation biotechnologies with new therapies which target and repair molecular damage responsible for the body’s aging.

With a Ph. D. in Biochemistry from Vanderbilt University and specializations in physiology, cell biology, and molecular genetics, Dr. Barton was able to provide insight into one of the many areas of research currently being studied among those in the field of life extension and anti-aging.

“Perhaps one of the most popular views behind the aging process is the ‘stem cell theory of aging,’ which states that as we age, our stem cells aren’t able to continue dividing to replenish the cells that are being lost in our tissues and organs,” Dr. Barton explained, believing this to be an area of research holding great promise.

“In addition, every time a cell divides there is the potential for it to accumulate some type of damage to its DNA. Given that stem cells must divide over an entire lifetime, they tend to accumulate quite a bit of damage. It is really the inability of our stem cells to continue growing indefinitely that many believe is the root of the aging process. Without a healthy pool of stem cells, tissues and organs are no longer able to maintain themselves in a way that supports life.”

 

human cell cross section

Learning how to reverse cell damage could be the key to reversing aging. (Credit: Thinkstock)

The hope for researchers is to promote the field and provide the world with a hope for advancement and, one day, a solution.

“Scientific progress, particularly in academia, is most often hindered by the decreases in government funding,” Dr. Barton said. “When large organizations such as these are willing to contribute funds or resources in order to advance research on a specific topic, I think they immediately become relevant to the larger research community.”

And, in the case of anti-aging and life extension research communities, the relevancy of their research extends much further than that in everyday culture, aging treatments, diseases associated with aging, life expectancy, and the overall quality of life every single person will one day encounter with age.

So why haven’t we found the solution to aging yet?

Read more at http://www.redorbit.com/news/technology

Irish scientists discover way to ‘print’ new bones to help those with deformities and catastrophic injuries

 

Trinity College
Trinity College

BY PAT FLANAGAN

Irish scientists have developed a revolutionary new process which allows them to make human bones using 3D printing.

The new process could eliminate the need for bone grafts and could even make new joints to replace hips and knees and offers hope to those with large and complex bone defects or who have suffered catastrophic injuries.

 

In the future the process will allow bones to be repaired or even replaced cutting out the need for bone grafts.  Scientists at the Science Foundation Ireland-funded AMBER materials science centre at Dublin’s Trinity College have developed the new method of making bone material.  This is done using 3D bioprinting technology to construct cartilage templates in the shape of the missing bones.

When this is done the made up bone and stem cells is implanted under the skin, where it matures in time into fully functioning replacement bone with its own blood vessels.

The team, headed by Professor Daniel Kelly hope that in the future the development could lead to numerous applications in areas like head, jaw and spinal surgery.  READ MORE

Making memories stronger and more precise during aging

Young neurons (pink), responsible for encoding new memories, must compete with mature neurons (green) to survive and integrate into the hippocampal circuit. Photo courtesy of Kathleen McAvoy, Sahay Lab.
Young neurons (pink), responsible for encoding new memories, must compete with mature neurons (green) to survive and integrate into the hippocampal circuit. Photo courtesy of Kathleen McAvoy, Sahay Lab.

HSCI researchers identify new mechanisms by which new neurons sharpen memories

By Hannah L. Robbins, HSCI Communications

When it comes to the billions of neurons in your brain, what you see at birth is what get — except in the hippocampus. Buried deep underneath the folds of the cerebral cortex, neural stem cells in thehippocampus continue to generate new neurons, inciting a struggle between new and old as the new attempts to gain a foothold in the memory-forming center of the brain.

In a study published online today in Neuron, Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) researchers atMassachusetts General Hospital and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in collaboration with an international team of scientists found they could bias the competition in favor of the newly generated neurons.

“The hippocampus allows us to form new memories of ‘what, when and where’ that help us navigate our lives,” said HSCI Principal Faculty member and the study’s corresponding author, Amar Sahay, PhD, “and neurogenesis—the generation of new neurons from stem cells—is critical for keeping similar memories separate.”

As the human brain matures, the connections between older neurons become stronger, more numerous, and more intertwined, making integration for the newly formed neurons more difficult. Neural stem cells become less productive, leading to a decline in neurogenesis. With fewer new neurons to help sort memories, the aging brain can become less efficient at keeping separate and faithfully retrieving memories.

The research team selectively overexpressed a transcription factor, Klf9, only in older neurons in mice, which eliminated more than one-fifth of their dendritic spines, increased the number of new neurons that integrated into the hippocampus circuitry by two-fold, and activated neural stem cells.   READ MORE

Vascular Tissue Challenge Introduction Webinar

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Event Description

The Vascular Tissue Challenge is a $500,000 prize purse for the creation ofthick, human vascularized organ tissue in an in-vitro environment that maintains metabolic functionality similar to in vivo native cells throughout a 30-day trial period. The Methuselah Foundation’s New Organ Alliance and NASA’s Centennial Challenges Program have partnered to create this challenge with the goal of advancing research on human physiology, fundamental space biology, and medicine taking place both on the Earth and the ISS National Laboratory.

Additionally, the Center for Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) will be providing an additional “Innovations in Space” Award covering $200,000 in hardware costs and the launch costs to send one team’s vascular tissue experiment to the International Space Station that could further their research in the field.

This introductory webinar is for anyone interested in potentially competing for the Vascular Tissue Challenge. In the webinar we will discuss the following items:

  1. Introduction to the Methuselah Foundation, New Organ Alliance, and NASA Centennial Challenges.
  2. Goals of the Vascular Tissue Challenge.
  3. Rules & evaluation criteria review.
  4. Innovations in Space Awardresearch opportunity using microgravity environment onboard the ISS.
  5. Processes and Procedures to compete.
  6. Question & Answer session.

Registration is free, but is required. The web address for the webinar will be emailed to webinar registrants prior to the event.

WHEN

Episode 007 – Control Alt Delete Cancer Research into longevity, human health, ageing, New Organ Research including bioprinting liver, kidney, and other medical pursuits

 

Control Alt Del

Hello and welcome to Episode 7!  On this episode, we’ll talk with Dr. Haroldo Silva and David Halvorsen of the SENS Research Foundation.  They’ve launched a new crowdfunding campaign designed to attack and stop cancer using a new approach.  You’ll hear what that approach is, why they think it has a good chance of success, and you can help in the fight.

If you’d like to comment on the show, have a question or want to reach us, write Rod.Wheaton@MFoundation.org

To learn how you can help the Methuselah Foundation continue its mission to extend heathy human life, CLICK HERE

NASA’s Vascular Tissue Challenge to help in study of deep space environmental effects

NASA’s Vascular Tissue Challenge to help in study of deep space environmental effects

Those working in the field of bioengineering should be ready for a challenge worth $500,000. NASA, along with the nonprofit Methuselah Foundation’s New Organ Alliance, has introduced the new prize competition, named as the Vascular Tissue Challenge. The first three teams that will succeed in creating thick, metabolically-functional human vascularized organ tissue in a controlled laboratory environment will be offered the prize money.

The participants in the competition have to produce vascularized tissue that is more than .39 inches in thickness and one that would offer over 85% of survival to required cells throughout a 30-day trial period. The teams in order to succeed should conduct three trials with at least a 75% of success rate. Moreover, teams must submit a proposal on ways to advance some aspect of their research further through a microgravity experiment, which would be conducted in the US National Laboratory on the International Space Station.

Tissue is a combination of related cells joined together to function as…to read more, CLICK HERE

Longevity, ageing, research, cancer, new organs, bioprinting, nasa, sens, age, human, health,kidney,liver,transplant,organ,doctor,grants

Episode 006 – Could Cryopreservation for Human Organs Save 700,000 – 900,000 Lives a Year?

 

Transplanting Organs

Join us on this episode of the Methuselah 300 Podcast as we interview Dr. Sebastian Eriksson Giwa;  co-founder and chairman of the Organ Preservation Alliance and co-founder and CEO of Sylvatica Biotech.  Dr. Giwa will discuss how Cryopreservation could transform and revolutionize transplantation Currently at least 1 in 5 people on the organ waiting list die due to the inability of keeping organs viable for transport, resulting in 700,000 deaths a year by some estimates.  Dr Giwa and his team want to change that…

The Defense Department, National Science Foundation and even the White House are beginning to recognize the need and potential of this scientific frontier , and scientists from around the world to an increasing decree are tackling the remaining challenges.  

Will you join us?  You can find out how to become a foundation supporter at  Mfoundation.org.

We thank you for your support now and in the future!

Sincerely,

Methuselah Foundation

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