UA Researchers Use 3D Printing to Help Fight Cancer

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Medicine and 3D printing continue to merge with one another. We have seen numerous applications for 3D printing within the medical field, most centering around 3D bioprinting. Today the University of Alabama announced a unique combination of the 2 fields. The very first 3D printed model of a G-quadruplex DNA sequence, with its molecular structure, has been created.

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3D Printed G-quadruplex Molecule

The work was done by Dr. Vincent F. Scalfini, the engineering and science librarian at UA, who teamed up with Dr. Stephen Neidle, and Stephan A. Ohnmacht, both working as researchers in the UK, at the University College London. The researchers converted x-ray crystallography data of the molecule, as well as the drug targeting it, into a 3D model, which they than manipulated in order to 3D print. The researchers feel that such technology will make major strides in the fight against cancer, as the 3D physical model will allow scientists to further understand the DNA sequence they are working with.

Dr. Scalfani explained the significance of his work as follows,
“Preparing the G-qaudruplex DNA sequence for 3D printing was a challenge and certainly pushed the limits of what we thought was possible in the UA 3D Lab. The structure is extremely intricate, containing multiple areas of stacked functional groups that are all surrounded by a common outer loop. The 3D printed G-quadruplex is stunning; you can see all of the symmetry, facets and angles within the molecule.”

It may seem rather useless to have a 3D printed physical representation of the DNA structure when researchers are able to view the same structure on a computer, however, those who see it that way, have never worked with this kind of data. The printed model is already being put to use in pre-clinical pancreatic cancer studies at the University, and will also give students at the school a hands on learning experience.

“G- quadruplex DNA is unusual as it is four-stranded, not two stranded like ‘normal’ double helical DNA we know,” Ohnmacht said.

For this very reason, having the means to handle the model, and truly understand it is invaluable to researchers. The ability for them to get a true feel for the three dimensional characteristics of the structure is priceless.

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