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WPI team scales-up production of biopolymer microthreads
Date:4/30/2012

the body. It's the building block for skin and connective tissues such as tendons, ligaments, muscle, and cartilage. So Pins and his lab team theorized that thin threads of collagen would be well-tolerated by the body. As the work continued, the team also began making microthreads from fibrin, which is the main protein in blood clots; since clotting is an early response to injury Pins believed that fibrin threads could become useful scaffolds for wound-healing applications.

Initially, Pins and his lab team made each thread by hand, using a large syringe to push out a bead of collagen or fibrin, draw it into a bath of solution, then lift it out by hand to dry suspended over the edges of a cardboard box. "I always looked for the student with the steadiest hands to draw out the threads," Pins said, noting that it was difficult to get the threads to be consistent in diameter and length.

While the hand-drawn method demonstrated the promise of the concept, Pins challenged several of his undergraduate students to develop an automated system for making the threads in a consistent manner. Two Major Qualifying Project (MQP) teams tackled the challenge over the course of two years. Working collaboratively with WPI faculty members in mechanical engineering and robotics engineering, they developed a working bench-scale prototype that automated most of the thread production process. "The prototype worked well, and produced more consistent threads," Pins noted.

By early 2010, interest in the microthreads had expanded beyond Pins's lab, as colleagues at WPI saw opportunities to use them in their own areas of research. With demand for new threads growing, Paul Vasiliadis, a member of one of the MQP teams, began planning to take microthread production to the next level. After earning his bachelor's degree in 2010, Vasiliadis joined Gaudette's lab as a graduate student and became the lead developer of the production-scale extrusion system now bei
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Contact: Michael Cohen
mcohen@wpi.edu
508-868-4778
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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