MOSCOW, February 14 (RIA Novosti) – The Russian military plans to enter the rapidly developing field of bioengineering, calling this week for bids to create an artificial liver from human stem cells and animal tissue.
The tender for development of the artificial liver, dubbed “Code Prometheus,” was published on the state tender website, Zakupki.gov.ru, by the Federal Agency for the Procurement of Military and Special Equipment on Tuesday.
The winner of the 518 million rubles ($17 million) tender must produce a bioengineered human liver with all the capabilities of a “natural” liver, including toxin removal, by 2016.
The patient’s own stem cells are to be used for “Code Prometheus,” named after a mythical titan whose liver was eaten by an eagle every day, but regrew overnight. Stem cells would be attached to a “liver frame” created from biological material from an animal, possibly a pig, according to the outline of the tender.
The bioengineered liver is intended for patients with irreversible liver damage, the tender said. Diseases of the liver include cancer and cirrhosis, whose primary causes are hepatitis and alcoholism.
Russia has lagged behind in genetic research since the 1930s, when Soviet science was forced to embrace the theories of Trofim Lysenko, who rejected Mendelian inheritance and claimed that physiological changes experienced by living beings over the course of their lives – such as growth of muscle or removal of horns – can be transmitted genetically to offspring. Lysenko’s theories, since dismissed as pseudoscience, were endorsed by Stalin, and his opponents jailed or executed.
The Russian government has earmarked about 20 trillion rubles ($640 billion) between 2012 and 2020 for an ambitious program to re-equip the country’s military.