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Invention aims to lower costs of printing cellular structures for use in drug testing

Posted February 21, 2014
Undergraduate invention aims to lower costs of organ cell printing
Devon Bane, left, and Tanner Carden with their CarmAl extruder in a lab at UAH’s Shelby Center for Technology. Credit: Michael Mercier | UAH
A specialized 3-D printing extruder developed by a University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) sophomore and his collaborator could lower the costs of printing cellular structures for use in drug testing.

The CarmAl extruder – shorthand for Carbohydrate Anhydrous Rapid Manufacturing Aluminum extruder – its controlling software and the manufacturing processes being developed by second-year biological sciences student Tanner Carden and collaborator Devon Bane are able to produce a sugar grid that mimics blood vessels.

Normally a UAH mechanical and aerospace engineering undergraduate student, Bane is taking the semester off to catch up with the numerous inventions and commercial projects with which he’s involved.

The CarmAl extruder’s name is also a play on words, since the inspiration for the technology came from 3-D printers developed to make specialty candies.

“We’re using the sugar molecules in a form of reverse 3-D printing,” says Carden. “In this process, we first make the structures we want and then we embed them into a cellular matrix. “After cells held in suspension in an agarose solution are grown around the vascular structure, a solvent can be used to wash the sugar away.

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