Polyskin Life Sciences based in Thiruvananthapuram is the only participant from India.

Kerala research firm gears up for global liver making challenge to begin work in DecPolyskin Team/ Image courtesy: Polyskin Website
news Medical Research Thursday, November 23, 2017 - 17:39

A medical research company based in Thiruvananthapuram which has been selected for the one million dollar New Organ Liver Challenge, is all set to start its work from December.

The New Organ Liver Challenge is a global contest organised by the US-based Methuselah Foundation, along with NASA and others. The contest entails creating an artificial liver for a large animal, which should be able to survive on it for a minimum of 90 days. 

Polyskin Life Sciences, founded by Dr Rajmohan, who has a PhD in tissue engineering from the National Institute of Immunology in 2008, will begin the process of making the artificial liver from December.

The company is focussed on creative solutions in healthcare using the techniques of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Tissue engineering aims to bridge the gap between organs needed and those available for donating, by bringing in bio-engineered solutions. 

A separate team will be formed for the project. Speaking to TNM, Dr Rajmohan said, “We have the technical know-how and the laboratory. Funds are the only hindrance. Nearly Rs one crore is needed for the project. We can internally raise to an extent, but we still need support,”.

Dr Rajmohan and his team are hopeful of getting financial assistance from the government to move ahead. “Usually the Department of Science and Technology funds such projects. We will meet Shashi Tharoor, MP, with a plea to take it up with the government,” he said.  

The animal trials will be conducted in Bengaluru or Chennai while the research work will be done in the state, especially at the Polyskin lab at Thonnakkal in the district.

As per the data provided by Polyskin, liver is the second most sought after organ for transplantation. While the demand for kidney is 81.8% globally, for liver it is 11.4, heart 3.2 and lung 1.1%.

The New Organ Liver Challenge aims to create a regenerative or bio-engineered solution to make an artificial lever for a large animal that will keep it alive for 90 days. The first team to fulfil the guidelines by December 31, 2018 will win the award of one million dollars.

The Foundation is a public charity dedicated to advancing and celebrating regenerative technologies to reduce suffering and extend life. Polyskin Life Sciences is one among the 13 teams competing in the global liver challenge and the only one from India.

The liver challenge also aims to rally scientists worldwide to develop a regenerative solution based on tissue engineering to address the acute shortage of liver for transplantation.

The other participants in the challenge include Harvard Medical School, University of Pittsburg, Yokohama City University, Stanford University and Yale University, with majority of them being research groups from universities.

The guidelines for the New Organ Liver Challenge state that it should be a large animal (pig, rabbit, cow, or sheep), should have a minimum of 90 days survivability and a minimum of three out of four trials must be successful. The team can perform implants as many as times as they like before the 90-day survival trial begins; however once the trial has started, no additional implants or surgeries of any kind will be allowed.

Polyskin is hopeful of building a lot of capabilities through the project which will be helpful for the country and that is what makes them more enthusiastic. “Even if we lose, the capabilities we build will be useful for all. Dearth of organs is a severe issue we have been facing and the situation in India is worse compared to many other countries. After all, the challenge aims to deliver technology to people, which we are really hopeful about,” Dr Rajmohan said.

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