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3D Bioprinting at the Frontier of Medical Innovation

A theoretical scientist and an experimental engineer join forces to solve public health issues.

圣扎迦利Geffert, Anna-Blessing Merife and Pranav Soman observing Chris Santangelo write a math formula on a board in a lab.

Professors Pranav Soman and Chris Santangelo (middle and far right, respectively) with Ph.D. students 圣扎迦利Geffert and Anna-Blessing Merife.

超过106,000 Americans are waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant, with a new name added to the list every nine minutes. The demand is critical, explains 凤凰彩票登陆 professor Pranav Soman, and includes people of every age, 性别, 种族和民族. “There are as many people dying from organ disease as those needing a transplant. It’s a huge public health issue,” he adds.

Soman hopes that his work 在 College of Engineering and Computer Science 将拯救生命. The award-winning researcher is renowned for his contributions to 3D bioprinting—a new field in which organic and biological materials combine to create artificial structures that imitate human cells and tissues. His goal is to print a fully biocompatible 3D organ.

To achieve this, Soman has developed a technology toolbox for 3D bioprinting. Unlike 3D printing (which outputs materials like plastics, 陶瓷和金属), 3D bioprinting relies on bioinks—cell-laden substances that can be manipulated to print 3D structures used in applications like medical, hearing loss and dental implants; artificial joints; and nerve-stimulating devices.

“Bioprinting is the future of organ transplantation,” declares Soman, 谁 joined the biomedical and chemical engineering 2013年教师.

Smart, multi-functional materials depend on rich collaboration. The more interdisciplinary we are, the better we can tackle today’s challenges.

—Professor Pranav Soman
Geffert and Merife writing math formulas on a whiteboard.

Merife and Geffert are part of the Soman 研究 Group, 谁se 3D bioprinting applications are a boon to the scientific and medical communities.


A steadfast experimentalist, Soman thrives on direct experience and empirical evidence. His work owes a debt, however, to Chris Santangelo, a renowned theoretical 物理学家College of Arts and Sciences. The two are like yin and yang, representing different paths to the same goal in biomaterials research.

Santangelo came to 凤凰彩票官网 in 2019 with expertise in tiny nonbiological objects, including origami and self-folding materials, mechanical metamaterials, 和液晶. “I look at how these materials change shape and function, in response to stimuli like heat or moisture,”他说, adding that his work has been used to create biomaterials that help with hemorrhage control and collapsible origami structures that keep arteries open.

A member of the College’s Soft and Living Matter Group, Santangelo acknowledges the link between pure math and physics. Much of his research draws on geometry and topology (the study of properties preserved through the deformation, twisting and stretching of objects). One technique that Santangelo uses is DNA origami, in which long strands of DNA are computationally folded into arbitrary patterns. The procedure enables him to design nanostructures, like 在活的有机体内 biosensors and drug delivery containers, in a matter of weeks.

There are as many people dying from organ disease as those needing a transplant. It’s a huge public health issue.

—Professor Pranav Soman

Owning the 研究 Experience

The interplay of theory and experiment is on full display 在 大学’s BioInspired研究所, where Santangelo and Soman oversee the Smart Materials interdisciplinary research group. Working with scientists from different fields and institutions (including SUNY Upstate Medical 大学 and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry), the duo aims to replace or repair body parts damaged by age, 疾病或创伤.

圣扎迦利Geffert博士.D. 的学生 生物工程, compares Santangelo and Soman to an architect and an engineer, respectively. “Let’s say the architect has an idea for an application or a problem to be solved. He talks to the engineer, 谁, 反过来, sets up a realistic experiment with在 capabilities of what is state-of-the-art,”Geffert说, 谁 is training for a career in bioprinting. “If these capabilities aren’t up to par, Professor Pranav blows them out of the water with something new.”

Speaking from his lab in Bowne Hall, Soman smiles at the mention of rich, interdisciplinary exchange. “BioInspired organizes seminars and brainstorming sessions—anything to get people from different backgrounds working together,”他说. “We want students to own the research experience.”

索曼博士之一.D. students is Anna-Blessing Merife, 谁 helps faculty at SUNY Upstate print 3D microfluidic devices for eye and bone tissue. (Microfluidics deals with fluid mechanics, often at volumes thousands of times smaller than a common droplet.) “The field has major implications for drug development, disease modeling and personalized medicine,” says the aspiring professor. “Thanks to BioInspired, I’m achieving my career goals.”

Acting Entrepreneurially

Soman is taking microfluidics to the marketplace with his company, 的3 d微流体, which he founded with former student Zheng Xiong G’21. The company’s technology provides applications in multiple areas, including fundamental cell biology, 药物筛选, 细胞治疗, toxicity testing and regenerative medicine. 微流控芯片, which simulate organ function at the micro and nano levels, also are on the horizon.

Close up of Soman holding a microfluidic chip in a dish.

A microfluidic chip simulates organ functions at the microlevel.

Working with Professor Soman allows me to do what I’m good at—be an engineer and solve problems. He inspires me to explore the unknown.

圣扎迦利Geffert, Ph值.D. 的学生 生物工程

此外, Soman’s interest in 3D ceramic printing has led to a partnership with the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, where he was a 2022 summer faculty fellow. While not as easy to shape as metals and plastics, ceramic materials are known for their unique properties. “Ceramics are perfect for portable electronic devices because they’re durable and heat resistant,索曼说, 谁 works alongside Geffert. “They also offer excellent electrical insulation.”

Adds Geffert: “Working with Professor Soman allows me to do what I’m good at—be an engineer and solve problems. He inspires me to explore the unknown.”


这样的年代oman, Santangelo draws on BioInspired’s collaborative ethos to fast-track novel ideas. Some have garnered generous support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), National 研究院 of Health and Department of Defense.

One of his projects involves colleagues from 凤凰彩票官网, the 大学 of Pennsylvania and the 大学 of Colorado Boulder. The NSF-backed team is using soft, malleable materials to create a robotic bed. “Turning a patient in bed is one of the most dangerous jobs in a hospital,”Santangelo说, noting that nursing staff injuries, 像扭伤, 菌株和泪水, 花费了你.S. 医疗保健 industry about $9 billion a year. “We’re designing a surface that can dynamically change shape, allowing patients to be easily repositioned.”

That’s what Santangelo likes about his job—working with equations that are immutable. “The beauty of being a theorist is that it’s always the same math, 相同的几何, 相同的物理. I just apply the principles differently,”他说. “I use a surprising amount of high school geometry.”

微分几何, the study of smooth shapes and spaces, figures prominently in his foray into flexible electronics. Think ultrathin wearable devices; artificial skin and muscles; and soft, deformable robots. Surprisingly, flexible electronics are not too far afield from centuries-old mechanical computing.

We’re designing a surface that can dynamically change shape, allowing patients to be easily repositioned.

—Professor Chris Santangelo

“Some of these concepts—like simple logic, which is at heart of mechanical computing systems—are making a comeback in soft materials,索曼说, referring to matter that’s easily deformed by thermal stresses and fluctuations. “For instance, a body temperature sensor is nothing more than a simple computer. It doesn’t need technically sophisticated chips and software. Why consume large amounts of power and put chemicals in your body when you don’t have to?”

Santangelo and Soman agree that it’s not enough to make easy-to-use products. Responsible engineering entails minimal risk to human health and the environment. “We’re always thinking about the balance between economic growth, environmental protection and social responsibility,”索曼总结道. “Smart, multi-functional materials depend on rich collaboration. The more interdisciplinary we are, the better we can tackle today’s challenges.”

Rob Enslin

This story was published on .


  • Biomedical and Chemical Engineering

    The Department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering offers a vibrant and collaborative learning environment that emphasizes scholarship and discovery to ignite innovations in medicine, 医疗保健, 可再生能源, and sustainable energy practices.

  • The BioInspired研究所

    BioInspired 凤凰彩票官网 supports research into complex biological systems, developing and designing programmable 智能材料 to address global challenges in health, medicine and materials innovation. It is an Institute for Material and Living Systems, focusing on four key areas: drug discovery, 智能材料, 形式和功能, and development and disease. BioInspired involves faculty from life sciences, engineering, physics and chemistry.