US government targets osteoarthritis reversal and on-demand organ bioprinting

ARPA-H launches new bioprinting program and announces awards for five teams working to fully regenerate damaged joints.

In the past few days, the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) has made two announcements with significant longevity implications – one targeting osteoarthritis (OA) reversal and the other focusing on on-demand organ bioprinting.

In a bid to combat osteoarthritis, ARPA-H, a branch of the US Department of Health and Human Services, announced several awards in its Novel Innovations for Tissue Regeneration in Osteoarthritis (NITRO) program, which aims to develop injectable and implantable regenerative therapies to eradicate the debilitating condition. OA, affecting over 32 million Americans, results in the breakdown of bones and cartilage, causing severe pain and loss of mobility.

“If successful, this technology would decrease donor list wait times, reduce the need and cost for immunosuppressive drugs and make organs and tissues more widely available for people across the country,” said ARPA-H Director Dr Renee Wegrzyn.

ARPA-H has selected five performer teams under the NITRO program to spearhead innovative solutions. The teams, led by institutions including Duke University, Washington University in St. Louis, University of Colorado Boulder, Columbia University, and Case Western Reserve University, will focus on various aspects of regenerative medicine, including injectable and non-invasive bone and cartilage regeneration, as well as the development of replacement joints built from human cells. Phase 1 clinical trials of the first NITRO therapies are anticipated by 2028.

“By starting from multiple different types of cells, we will be creating organs that will be individually matched,” said Dr Ryan Spitler, ARPA-H PRINT Program Manager. “The body will not recognize it as a foreign entity, eliminating the need of immunosuppressive drugs, which has never been done in the history of organ transplantation.”

ARPA-H also unveiled the Personalized Regenerative Immunocompetent Nanotechnology Tissue (PRINT) program, aiming to address the critical shortage of organs for transplantation. With over 120,000 individuals on organ waitlists in the US and only 45,000 transplants performed annually, demand far outweighs supply, resulting in prolonged wait times and unnecessary deaths.

The PRINT program seeks to use cutting-edge bioprinting technology to create personalized, on-demand organs that eliminate the need for lifelong immunosuppressive drugs. Leveraging 3D bioprinting, cell manufacturing, and tissue engineering, the program aims to fabricate functional organs such as kidneys, hearts, and livers using patient cells or biobank resources. Proposals are invited across three technical areas, including generating organ cell types, large-scale manufacturing, and organ biofabrication.

“Through this revolutionary program, we seek to change how we treat osteoarthritis for millions of Americans by regenerating joint tissues, a task once believed to be impossible,” said Dr Ross Uhrich, ARPA-H NITRO Program Manager. “Beyond technical innovations, NITRO and its technical performer teams aim to ensure these revolutionary regenerative therapies benefit every American in need.”

Photograph: DragonImages/Envato