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3-D Printer to Revolutionize Biofluids and Biomechanics Research

This news article comes from central University of Idaho Communications and Marketing. View the original here. While IMCI was not involved in the funding of this research project, we are honored to have Dr. Tao Xing as one of our IMCI participants.

October 20, 2020 – With the help of a more than $300,000 major research instrumentation grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), the University of Idaho College of Engineering’s Department of Mechanical Engineering is installing a high-resolution, mixed-material 3-D printer. To be housed in the Integrated Research and Innovation Center (IRIC), this state-of-the-art 3-D printer can print large, geometrically detailed and flexible 3-D structures. The printer can also produce pieces in extremely high resolution, 16 microns, about one-third the average cross-section of a human hair. This complex printing is not currently possible using other 3-D printers on the Moscow campus.

Mechanical Engineering Associate Professor and project lead Tao Xing said 3-D printed materials on the U of I Moscow campus are currently printed in several components that are later connected, which can introduce additional errors in the geometry and add difficulty in conducting high-fidelity experimental measurements.

“Using this new printer, researchers can analyze the physical constructs of complex structures to improve understanding of different mechanisms in the body, from breathing to brain-drug delivery, the effect of brain cancer drugs in-vitro and therapeutic approaches to traumatic brain injury,” said Xing. “This instrument will facilitate and enhance multidisciplinary research and expand academic-industrial collaborations at U of I.”

The NSF grant was awarded to a team consisting of nine faculty from four U of I colleges, including engineering, the College of Science, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and the College of Natural Resources.

The installation of the printer is expected in spring 2021.

The printer will be part of a new lab in the IRIC focused on 3-D printing for studying biofluids and biomechanics. Both undergraduate and graduate students will have access to the printer and future lab. A one-credit course is currently being developed to provide training to use the new printer. The printer will also be used in 3-D-printing projects and competitions, including a partnership with the U of I chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) during their Women in Engineering events, held twice annually. Equipment time and training will be provided to advisors at local K-12 schools, including the Moscow High School Science Club and Near Space Engineering Club through the mission of the U of I Library’s Making, Innovating, Learning Laboratory training programs.

“Students will be exposed to structure-function relationships in tissues, 3-D drawing, mechanical analysis and state-of-the-art multi-material 3-D printing,” Xing said. “These outreach capabilities will broaden the participation of underrepresented minorities in engineering and related fields.”

This project was funded to University of Idaho by National Science Foundation under award 2019231. The total project funding is $360,774.00 of which 70% is the federal share.

Research Equipment Available for Use

One of the main objectives of IMCI is to support faculty in their interdisciplinary research. And one of the ways we do that is by helping the U of I acquire large pieces of equipment that would otherwise be unattainable. That means from time to time we:

  • Purchase equipment outright in support of the CMCI COBRE grant, usually as part of a specific pilot or research project.
  • Contribute funds towards the purchase of equipment that will build and improve upon the U of I’s research infrastructure.
  • Spearhead a collaborative purchasing initiative, negotiating and coordinating between researchers and departments to collect sufficient funding for a particular piece of equipment.

VIEW THE LIST of major equipment we’ve purchased (in whole or in part) to date, that is available to the U of I research community to use as needed.

New Fish Rack System Helps Advance U of I’s Biomedical Research

New Fish Rack System Helps Advance U of I’s Biomedical Research

This article was published by the Office of Research and Economic Development in the October 2019 Scholars and Researchers newsletter. IMCI supports Zebrafish research through modeling via the Evolution of Tandemly-Replicated Opsin Genes: Molecular Models That Predict Spectral Shifts (which led to an article featured on the cover of Science magazine) and Bioinformatic Analysis of Immune-Dell-Derived, Regeneration-Specific Transcripts in Zebrafish Modeling Access Grants (MAG). MAGs are the bridge between a great idea and an actual project. The joint purchase of these new zebrafish aquatic housing systems is just one example of our focus on interdisciplinary, collaborative research.

Humans and zebrafish have more in common than one might think. They share 70 percent of the same DNA coding; and zebrafish muscles, blood, immune system, kidneys and even eyes share many human features. Consequently, zebrafish are an important animal model for human biomedical research.

Recognizing this, Professor Deborah Stenkamp and Assistant Professor Diana Mitchell, both cellular and molecular biology experts in U of I’s College of Science, proposed to conduct retinal regeneration and developmental studies on zebrafish. Such research could help us understand the mechanisms behind the successful regeneration and regulation of genes governing color vision. These studies can also help pave the way for new approaches to help treat humans with vision loss — and possibly other disorders that can deteriorate the nervous system.

To conduct these studies, Stenkamp and Mitchell needed a clean, contained environment to keep these disease-susceptible animals safe and healthy. Several U of I entities stepped in to provide $73,000 in funding for the solution: three stand-alone ‘fish rack’ containment systems with advanced filtration features. The Office of Research and Economic Development, College of Science, Department of Biological Sciences, Idaho NIH IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) program, Institute for Bioinformatics and Evolutionary Studies (IBEST), and Institute for Modeling Collaboration and Innovation (IMCI) all helped support the effort.

The new racks will allow Stenkamp and Mitchell to perform ‘clean’ experiments on zebrafish tissue regeneration and development – without any pathogenic microbes that could complicate their experimental outcomes. The system, located in U of I’s Laboratory Animal Research Facility (LARF), will also help future U of I researchers conduct similar biomedical studies on zebrafish. The three racks feature a variety of small and large tanks, all monitored and controlled by a computerized system that ensures a healthy environment for the fish. These computers bring precise amounts of sodium bicarbonate – better known as baking soda – into the water to ensure pH balance; deliver exact measurements of brine to simulate brackish waters, where some zebrafish naturally live; and perform various other functions. Water storage tanks are also included in the system as a safeguard in case of system leaks or other water loss events.

Announcing the PacBio Sequel II

Announcing the PacBio Sequel II

Yesterday, the University of Idaho took delivery of a just-released, state-of-the-art DNA sequencer: PacBio Sequel II. This instrument is one of the very first of its kind in the entire world. And because we are one of the first organizations to acquire the machine, it also means that we will be one of the very first organizations to have access to an immense amount of quality data, the likes of which has never been available on campus before. This creates a tremendous opportunity for researchers at the University of Idaho to innovate and leverage this new type of data, creating major impacts in their fields and doing things people have not yet even thought of.

Vice President Nelson asks President Staben if he knows how much it cost and how long it took to sequence the first human genome.

Also significant is the fact that 23 different people and organizations across campus came together in just 3 weeks to collaboratively purchase the sequencer. No one department or faculty researcher could make such a large purchase on their own. But with everyone contributing bits and pieces of funding, a momentous opportunity unfolded.

Funding organizations and individuals include:

Center for Modeling Complex Interactions (CMCI)
Institute for Bioinformatics and Evolutionary Studies (IBEST)
BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action
GEM 3 Genes by Environment
Office of the President
Office of the Provost & Executive Vice President
Office of Research and Economic Development
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
College of Engineering
College of Natural Resources
College of Science
Dr. Kenneth Cain
Dr. Chris Caudill
Dr. Larry Forney
Dr. James Foster
Dr. Paul Hohenlohe
Dr. Alan Kolok
Dr. Chris Marx
Dr. Craig Miller
Dr. Ben Ridenhour
Dr. Paul Rowley
Dr. Eva Top
Dr. Lisette Waits
Dr. Holly Wichman
Dr. Marty Ytreberg

Vice President for Research and Economic Development Janet Nelson announced the arrival of the Sequel II at the SAS Talks yesterday in the IRIC:

How long do you think it took and how much do you think it cost to generate the first sequence of a human genome?  It took 13 years and $3 billion! Tonight’s theme is public impact research, and from that perspective this was one of the most important scientific achievements of its time.  Like many important milestones in science, the technological by-products of the quest are as important at the achievement itself.  The moon landing gave us Velcro; deciphering the human genome gave us next-generation sequencing technology.   Today the University of Idaho took delivery on the just-released, state-of-the-art, DNA sequencer—PacBio Sequel II. 

Why is this important for Idaho?

First, this is a game changer in the field of genomics and will allow us to continue our tradition of high impact research.  With this instrument it will take less than a week and cost about $5000 to sequence a human genome, and the quality of both the sequence and the assembly will be vastly superior to the $3 billion genome released 16 years ago.  The new PacBio will have applications in many fields, including medicine, natural resources, and agriculture, to name a few.

Second, the University of Idaho is one of the first institutions in the world to take delivery of this new instrument, putting us on the cutting edge of genomic sequencing technology. This will allow our Genomics Resources Core to continue to provide the value-added service for which it so well known.  It will improve research at the University of Idaho and across the state, creating a tremendous opportunity for our researchers to lead the world in integrating this new type of data into our research programs.

Finally, this purchase is concrete evidence of what we can achieve by working together.  In just over a month, we brought together 23 contributors to purchase this machine and an extended service contract. This is the largest number of contributors to come together so quickly for a purchase of this type– at least that I am aware of.  Let’s take a moment to celebrate what we can do through cooperation and collaboration.

The Sequel II will be managed by the IBEST Genomics Resources Core located in IRIC.