AMS Spring 2023

Scaled-up 3D Printed Viruses Help Students Understand the Flu and Other Diseases

6K SmarTech

Share this Article

In much of the United States, flu season is just beginning. Australia, however, has been in the midst of flu season for while now, and Queensland in particular is experiencing one of the worst flu epidemics it’s seen in a long time. There’s no cure for influenza, and vaccines have to be constantly reformulated as the virus mutates and comes back as a slightly different version of itself every year. Students at CQUniversity are working to better understand how those mutations happen, as well as the nature of other virus-borne diseases, with the help of 3D printing.

Studying the shape and structure of a virus can provide a better idea about how it survives and evolves, but it’s tough to get a full idea by looking through a microscope. Therefore, CQUniversity’s medical and engineering departments are working together to scale up several virus models to about the size of a softball and 3D print them, so that students can hold and examine them from every angle.

“CQUni has a state-of-the-art 3D printing facility which is largely used for engineering applications, however the Medical students will use this technology to begin to understand concepts about how viruses are formed and enter cells, and how parts of the virus can be targets for therapeutic intervention,” said Dr. Padraig Strappe, Senior Lecturer in Medical Laboratory Science. “Viruses cannot be seen with the naked eye and working with pathogenic viruses is untenable for undergraduates. 3D printing allows scaling up of the structure of these viruses so students can learn more about virus structure and shape, and relate these features to pathogenesis and recent outbreak.”

Dr. Padraig Strappe discusses one of the 3D printed models with his students.

He pointed to the recent influenza outbreak, saying that by 3D printing a scaled-up flu virus they could highlight the haemmagluttin, which is the part of the virus that changes from year to year.  Larger changes equal more serious epidemics, he added.

In addition to the flu virus, the students are also working with large 3D printed models of several other viruses, including Zika, Ebola, polio, and the common cold.

“It’s a very powerful learning technique — we can go into a lecture theatre and rather than looking at a picture, we can throw virus models into the crowd and say ‘here, catch a cold!'” Dr. Strappe said.

Some of the models also illustrate how antibodies generated by the immune system bind to the viruses as they work to remove the threat.

The virus models were created from 3D scans of viruses uploaded by various research organizations. Each model took about 24 hours to print, and they’re all accurate to 0.2mm, according to CQUniversity Laboratory Supervisor Simon Cumming. The hope is that by studying viruses in large 3D form, understanding can be gained not only on how the viruses survive and evolve, but how they can better be treated and even, ultimately, cured.

In addition, the interdisciplinary nature of the project is exposing medical students to skills they wouldn’t necessarily learn otherwise in their degrees, said Dr. Strappe.

“This project exposes medical science students to engineering concepts such as computer-aided design and advanced manufacturing, which they normally wouldn’t encounter in their degree,” he said. “This helps students to think beyond the confines of their own subject and develop interdisciplinary skills which students will need in the field.”

Since 3D printing is becoming such a large part of the medical field, it really should be part of medical school curriculum, but until it is, projects like this one are a great way to expose future medical professionals to the technology – and maybe to get them to eventually come up with cures to some of our worst and most persistent diseases.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below.

[Sources: CQUniversity / ABC / Images: CQUniversity]

 

Share this Article


Recent News

3D Printing News Unpeeled: Warhammer, AVIC and Pearson Lloyd

Fire at Icon’s House 3D Printing HQ Highlights Need for Decentralized Supply Chains



Categories

3D Design

3D Printed Art

3D Printed Food

3D Printed Guns


You May Also Like

How Can 3D Printing Alleviate the Construction Industry’s Social, Climate, and Environmental Challenges?

Global housing shortages, a lack of skilled workers, and the need to reach carbon neutrality by 2050—the construction industry faces a tripled-edged sword. Industry leaders must use their experience to...

WASP 3D Printed Home Aims to Be Entirely Self-Sufficient

WASP is a very different kind of 3D printing company. The Italian firm is very idealistic and was literally founded to change the world—after all, the company name is an...

3D Printing News Unpeeled: ICON, RAF, Renishaw and Stratasys

Stratasys gets a Victrex PAEK material for its 450MC system, a bunch of new colors of Ultem 9085, a flame retardant polycarbonate and more. The OpenAM software will also let...

Fleet of 3D Printers Begin Building Housing Community in Texas with Construction Giant Lennar Corp and ICON

As 2022 comes to an end, additive construction (AC) companies all over the world are announcing a flurry of upcoming projects. The most recent of these is also one of...