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Open Lab Assists Center for Vaccine Research with 3D Printed COVID-19 Models

From left: Will Hinson, emerging technology specialist at the University Center for Teaching and Learning; Lindsey Robinson-McCarthy, postdoctoral associate at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center; Kevin McCarthy, assistant professor of microbiology and molecular genetics; Paul Duprex, director of the Center for Vaccine Research, professor of microbiology and molecular genetics; Sham Nambulli, research scientist at the Center for Vaccine Research; Ghady Haidar, infectious disease physician at UPMC; Linda Murphy, research assistant professor at the Center for Vaccine Research. (Tom Altany/University of Pittsburgh)
From left: Will Hinson, emerging technology specialist at the University Center for Teaching and Learning; Lindsey Robinson-McCarthy, postdoctoral associate at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center; Kevin McCarthy, assistant professor of microbiology and molecular genetics; Paul Duprex, director of the Center for Vaccine Research, professor of microbiology and molecular genetics; Sham Nambulli, research scientist at the Center for Vaccine Research; Ghady Haidar, infectious disease physician at UPMC; Linda Murphy, research assistant professor at the Center for Vaccine Research. (Tom Altany/University of Pittsburgh)

The Teaching Center’s Open Lab recently assisted the Center for Vaccine Research [CVR] in their informational campaign about mutations in the COVID-19 virus.

Will Hinson, emerging technology specialist in the Open Lab, 3D printed two models for CVR researchers earlier this month: a Coronavirus model and a COVID-19 spike protein. The latter helped Paul Duprex, CVR’s director and professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, illustrate the virus’s mutations in a recent episode of 60 Minutes on CBS.

The printing process for the spike protein, measuring nearly five inches tall and 800 times its original size, took nearly six days to complete and started with the Ultimaker S5 3D printer housed in the Open Lab at Alumni Hall. Hinson based the 3D print on the COVID-19 virus model from the National Institute of Health. The process included the initial printing (and re-printing after a jam) of the spike protein, then a repetitive cycle of submerging the entire 3D print in water then air drying (to dissolve the surrounding material), then delicately applying multiple coats of paint. Hinson completed these steps in three-hour cycles for a full day, splitting time between the lab and his home.

“It is so rewarding to be able to support members of the Pitt community in the work that they do,” Hinson said. “It was great to meet that team at the Center for Vaccine Research. The feedback was very positive and while they truly appreciated what we worked on, it goes without saying that we appreciate what they’re working on much more.”

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