May 13, 2014

Senior chemical engineering student Derek Chhiv, right, discusses with Professor Anson Ma his group's prototype for an artificial kidney. The prototype was generated through 3-D printing. Credit: Al Ferreira for UConn

3D printing has been used to build tools, toys and jewelry, and it may someday be producing complex organ. Six School of Engineering students at the University of Connecticut have designed and developed a prototype of a low-cost, functional artificial kidney using 3D printing and chemical engineering principles.

Directed by Anson Ma, assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and the Institute of Materials Science, the students were assigned a task to find a solution for the limited supply of transplantable kidneys as demand far outstrips supply.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, there are currently nearly 100,000 people awaiting kidney transplants in the United States. But only 14,000 kidney transplants took place in the country this year, and each month an additional 2,500 new patients are added to the waiting list.

"The objective of the design project is to get these students to combine the latest technology and their chemical engineering knowledge, learned over their four years at UConn, to solve a technical problem where we can make a difference," notes Ma. "Can they push the technology further?"

A drawing of the shell of an artificial kidney rendered using AutoCAD software. It is 12 cm long and 6 cm in diameter, an average size for an adult human biological kidney. Credit: Benjamin Coscia

The students participating were: Derek Chhiv, Meaghan Sullivan, Danny Ung, Benjamin Coscia, Guleid Awale, and Ali Rogers. They have split into two teams, each took a different approach to the problem. One team used hollow fiber membrane technology, commonly used in traditional hemodialysis treatments, and the other team utilized techniques such as electrodialysis and forward osmosis in their prototype.

Benjamin Coscia '14 explains the hollow fiber membrane technology: "Because 3D printing resolutions are not currently low enough to print a structure which will actually filter blood, the file is of only the shell of the kidney. Hollow fiber membranes will be installed on the inside to do the filtration function. The kidney will then be sealed together using the threads and sealing o-rings. A fluid called dialysate will be circulated on the outside of the membranes, inside of the shell, which will cause flux of components from the blood. A waste stream maintains the person's ability to urinate. The outside of the shell can be used as a substrate for growth of biological material for ease of integration into the body."

The outer shell of the artificial kidney prototype using electrodialysis and forward osmosis. Credit: Derek Chhiv

Assembling the kidney components. Credit: Derek Chhiv

Interior components of the 3-D artificial kidney, rendered using AutoCAD software. Credit: Derek Chhiv

The teams used AutoCAD software to design the prototype and collaborated with UConn technology partner ACT Group of Cromwell, Conn. to select 3D printer and polymers to print out their design. Their projects were presented on May 2, 2014 at the School of Engineering Senior Design Demonstration Day.

"The biggest challenge in approaching the project was applying the engineering knowledge we've gained during our undergraduate years to a more complex biological application," Awale notes. "This forced us to come out of our comfort zone and rely on our problem-solving skills in order to come up with viable solutions."


Posted in 3D Printing Applications

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Pottertown wrote at 5/13/2014 9:09:14 AM:

Shoulda used Solidworks.

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