UNL Researchers Team Up to Study Possibilities of 3-D Printing of Bio-Materials

July 26, 2018 - 5:00pm

Two UNL engineering researchers have teamed up to study the possibilities of 3-D printing. Dr. Prahalada Rao and Dr. Ali Tamayol are looking at ways to enhance 3-D printing to become flawless enough to print biomaterials, such as tissue or organs, in order to help victims of traumatic injuries.

Tamayol brings the biological components while Rao’s area of focus centers on ensuring the 3-D printers are precise. Products from 3-D printers can often be rough and contain defects, so precision is crucial, especially with biomaterials.

Tamayol said a primary focus of their research is simply to create smarter technology.

“So technically we are trying to come up with smart bio-printers, that way they can adjust themselves during the process,” Tamayol said.

Rao and Tamayol believe this research is crucial because of the potential it has to save millions of lives.

“There are approximately 28,000 organ transplants in a year in the United States. The waiting list [for organ transplants] is 120,000 people. So that’s a deficit of 90,000 people who cannot get an organ transplant,” Rao said.

They believe 3-D printing is the best solution to this problem because of the ability to map out and design the final product. There are numerous applications to printing biomaterials as well, such as creating tissues and organs from one’s own stem cells.

Rao said Nebraska is one of the best places to conduct this type of research thanks to the resources and technology.

“So the idea is that we at Nebraska can do everything from polymers, to metals, to biology. And we can do it pretty much under one roof, with minimal amount of obstructions in the way. And our machines are very special because they let us do research on them, in the sense that you can play with the factors,” Rao said.

Both researchers said 3-D printing of tissues is likely only four to five years down the road.

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