Front row: From left to right, Ivy He, Ms. Tairong Zheng, Lauren Howe, Kaia Luik (holding a 3D printed prosthetic hand), Marjan Majid
Back row: From left to right, Dr. Luis Diaz-Gomez, Petros Zombanakis, Joe Li, Sebastian Chenin, Dr. Anthony Melchiorri, and Dr. Antonios Mikos
3D printing is a popular area of medical research as more therapeutics, surgical procedures, and medical devices take advantage of its advanced capabilities and it is a major component of the Biomaterials Lab’s work. Among the many 3D printing applications, the technology enables researchers and clinicians to design custom implants and prosthetics for patients as well as rapidly design and prototype tools that can be used during surgical procedures. Student interns explored several of these topics related to the field culminating in the fabrication of a functional, customizable prosthetic hand.
“We were delighted to have the students visit the lab for the week,” Dr. Antonios Mikos, Director of the Biomaterials Lab, said. “It is a valuable opportunity for them to participate in our research efforts and also a great opportunity for the members of our laboratory to utilize their teaching skills.”
Dr. Mikos and Ms. Tairong Zheng from Awty International Upper School established the internship program. This program is also part of the Center for Engineering Complex Tissue’s educational mission, of which the Biomaterials Lab is a partner. Dr. Tony Melchiorri, the Associate Director of the Biomaterials Lab, organized the internship with the help of Dr. Luis Diaz-Gomez, a post-doctoral fellow, Sean Bittner, a doctoral graduate student, and Marjan Majid, a doctoral graduate student.
“The students got to see how you can combine the topics you learn in school to these technologies,” Dr. Diaz-Gomez said. “For example, they could see how physics affects the medical imaging through x-rays, how we use mathematics to measure and design devices, and how we use biology to take advantage of cells and tissues in our bone regeneration grafts.”
Dr. Diaz-Gomez and the rest of the group instructed high school students in experiments and exercises used in the clinic and medical research. For example, students applied medical imaging techniques to capture a 3D model of an object which they could modify digitally and then 3D print. They also created scaffolds intended to foster cell and tissue growth out of gelatin and alginate, two naturally derived biomaterials, and they learned how to custom-design artificial bone grafts.
Participating high school students included Sebastian Chenin (entering 12th grade), Ivy He (12th), Lauren Howe (12th), Joe Li (11th), Kaia Luik (10th), and Petros Zombanakis (12th).
Capping off their week-long experience with the Biomaterials Lab, the high school students 3D printed and assembled functional prosthetic hands based off designs provided by E-Nable, a global charity that coordinates with volunteers to 3D print prosthetics for children all around the world. Drs. Mikos and Melchiorri hoped that students have a taste now for using cutting edge technologies like 3D printing to address real world problems like limb loss.