From A Bowl of Noodles to Dry Spaghetti

April 18, 2017

A hallway marked with signs that read “biohazard,” “radioactive,” and “nuclear medicine,” leads to the lab of one of the newest additions to cutting-edge research.

Weighing in at approximately 1,000 pounds, this newcomer was shipped from Switzerland and has already held an audience with Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb. It has yet to be christened with a nickname, but for now, this hefty machine bears a label “Regan HU, 3D Discovery.” Its potential is as impressive as its size.

Based at the VA Medical Center, the 3D bio printer – one of only a few in the nation – is capable of reproducing blood cells that can aid in the healing of wounds and burns. Although the machine is in the testing stages, in time, it will be used by Indiana University researchers with appointments at the VA and IU School of Medicine, said Clifford M. Babbey Director of Vascular Research Operations. He expects patients to be involved in about a year.

Babbey was responsible for collecting data for a grant to fund the machine. When he asked for input, Babbey received feedback from specialists in areas of plastic surgery, vascular, bone, cancer, brain, spinal cord, pulmonary, and nephrology – all responding enthusiastically to using the 3D bio printer for research.

“One of the biggest problems we have in experimental science is replicating the environment of the disease and replicating the true cells of a patient,” said Babbey. “It’s like a bowl of spaghetti. There’s no organization.” What the new 3D bio printer will do is allow researchers to work as architects to create grids that form layered blood cells that can be inserted in the patient’s wound, said Babbey.

“Think of it as dry spaghetti stored neatly in a box as opposed to a bowl of cooked spaghetti all mixed up,” said Babbey. “It allows a precision that is the difference between a chaotic ball of thread and a piece of woven cloth.”

-- By T.J. Banes

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