A LEAP INNOVATION THAT SAVES LIVES: ORGAN REPLACEMENT FROM THE LABORATORY

In Germany, almost 10,000 seriously ill people are currently waiting for a life-saving transplant – most of them dramatically many years in vain. There are simply too few donor organs.

A medical leap-frogging innovation – the cultivation of replacement organs in the laboratory – could provide a remedy. And indeed, intensive work is already underway worldwide to develop three-dimensional organ-like models, so-called organoids, from patients' own cells.

The research results are promising. Skin and cartilage can already be cultivated and implanted into patients. However, the mini-organs developed so far are not yet viable, they do not yet come close to real organs in size and functional complexity.

The breakthrough is now to be achieved by the innovation competition "Organ replacement from the laboratory". The competition is looking for innovations that enable the cultivation of viable organoids – for the five most urgently needed organs: kidney, liver, heart, lung and pancreas. The three winning teams will receive funding of 3, 2 and 1 million euros for the next development steps of their project.

Organs cultivated in the laboratory are of great importance for future health care. They would reduce dependence on donor organs. They could even make organ donation superfluous - and at the same time relieve those affected of the heavy burden of medication against rejection reactions.

At the virtual finale on May 7th, the six best research teams presented to an international jury of experts how they intend to approach the vision of an organ replacement cultivated in the laboratory. The three winning teams can now apply for research funding of three million, two million or one million euros.

The winners of the competition in detail:

1. 3D-Heart-2B: Three-dimensional heart tissue from the laboratory as an implantable biological heart support system (Project leader: Prof. Dr. Ina Gruh, Hanover Medical School)

2nd INDIHEART: Individualized heart muscles for the functional treatment of heart failure (Project leader: Prof. Dr. Wolfram-Hubertus Zimmermann, University of Göttingen)

3. e-Islet: Development of an organoid technology for a cell replacement therapy for diabetes patients (Project leaders: Prof. Dr. Heiko Lickert and Dr. Matthias Meier, Helmholtz Zentrum München)

Further information (in German): www.bmbf.de