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Biohacking competition
College students compete to print best organic tissue

04/19/18



On May 18 and May 19, college students statewide will have an opportunity to compete in the first BioHackNH event, where they’ll be tasked with making organic material with special 3-D printers and judged on how closely they achieve the desired results.
The event is a partnership between the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute, UNH Manchester and Cellink, a bioink and bioprinter company. This is part of a burgeoning field of science where scientists, engineers and health care providers hope to someday manufacture replacement tissue for humans using 3-D printing technology.
Patrick Thayer, a bioink officer at Cellink, said the company will be providing a couple printers and all the “inks” that students will use to make their tissue products. These bioinks, as they’re called, include substances such as gelatin, alginates, polyethylene oxides, pluronics, nanocellulose and more. In real-world application, these would serve as a sort of template or scaffolding that, when mixed with living cells, would guide the cells to form skin grafts or corneas or even more complex organs in the future.
“The challenge we’re giving the participants of this is we want them to design and develop a vascular network and basically print it,” Thayer said.
The hard part will be striking a balance between creating a wide-reaching vascular network and not compromising the structural integrity of the tissue. Thayer said judges will pump the tissues full of dye to see how well it diffuses throughout the vascular network in the material, and they’ll score extra points for taking risks and experimenting. That may mean coming up with an ingenious cocktail of bioinks or a never before considered structural blueprint. 
“The idea is to let these students play around with these parameters and learn something from it,” Thayer said.
Students need to print at least 2 milliliters of tissue but they can customize the shape in any way they want.
UNH Manchester is also planning on buying a couple printers for the event and its Biofabrication Innovation Center, which is planned to be opened in January, 2019, according to Mary Stewart, the director of education and workforce development at UNH Manchester. 
Someday, this printing technology may also be used for printing custom pharmaceuticals for patients based on their body mass index and their required dosage.
Thayer said he hopes this competition will become an annual event, and they also hope to expand it to high school and middle school students interested in STEM fields. A big part of it is about creating a future workforce for the ARMI initiative, which has promised to reshape the state’s tech industry with a focus on tissue manufacturing. But organizers also hope to see how fresh minds approach the same problems and come up with new ideas for solutions that may someday be used to save lives.  





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