Scientists from the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine are being recognized by NASA for creating lab-engineered human tissue.

The two teams won first and second place in NASA's Vascular Tissue Challenge. That's a competition — with cash prizes — that aims to accelerate innovations in organ engineering.

The researchers used 3D bioprinting technology to create functional liver tissue, connected with artificial blood vessels, that survived for 30 days in a lab. Having a blood vessel structure that works with manufactured organs is crucial, as this is how nutrients and oxygen are distributed.

The first-place team will receive $300,000 and the opportunity to continue research in space under the sponsorship of the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory. The second-place team gets $100,000.

According to a press release, the research could potentially end the organ shortage, and eliminate the risk of patient rejection. In terms of the NASA connection, these models can be used to study how radiation exposure affects the human body in space. 

Scientists also hope that this opens the door to more tissue engineering on Earth and biomanufacturing in space.

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