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Monday, April 24, 2017

Bioprinting and Biofilm Mimicry: A Student Science Adventure


Biofilms, complex extracellular structures created by bacterial colonies, pose a serious threat to human health. They are responsible for survival and antibiotic resistance of many bacteria, and lead to serious infectious diseases such as cystic fibrosis and endocarditis.
Preventing or destroying biofilms is an important area of research, and could help cure these diseases. A major challenge in studying biofilms is our ability to create them reproducibly and precisely in the laboratory so that experimental results are reliable. The r3bEL Bioprinter can mimic biofilms through culturing and printing bacteria in an alginate medium onto a petri dish or another substrate. These highly reproducible biofilm mimicries can then be tested for effects of key variables  and of antibacterial substances.

About me
I am Shruteek Mairal, a sophomore at Irvington High School in Fremont. Science and technology have always fascinated me, and in the spring of 2016, I came to know of SE3D’s 3D bioprinting technology. Intrigued, I approached Dr. Mayasari Lim and Prof. Prashanth Asuri, co-founders of SE3D, for an internship opportunity. Over the summer that year, I experimented with novel applications for the r3bEL 3D bioprinter. In the fall, my dad introduced me to his friend’s daughter, Nikita Salunke. She was interested in microbiology and had been considering topics for a science fair project. We both soon realized that our interests were complementary, and we decided to combine our two fields of interest by printing bacterial biofilms with the r3bEL bioprinter. Dr. Lim agreed to let us borrow r3bEL and supervise the project, and the rest was history.

The Project
Both Nikita and I were motivated to do something well-defined that could be submitted to a science fair. After much discussion, we decided on the Synopsys Alameda County Science and Engineering Fair (ACSEF) as the forum for our project. However, a major challenge lay ahead - our schools were located in two different counties, mine in Alameda county and Nikita’s in Santa Clara county. We wanted to enter as a team, but most teams came from the same schools. After some back-and-forth with science fair officials in both counties, we secured permission to submit as a team into the Synopsys Science Fair.
In this project, we proposed a novel approach - the use of 3D bioprinting technology - to mimic the formation of biofilms so that the effects of various antimicrobial solutions can be studied. Specifically, we investigated the effects of varying concentrations of alginate, a natural sugar, and Penicillin Streptomycin, a known antibiotic, on the bacteria of a 3D-printed biofilm. We conducted experiments by taking Escherichia Coli from a pre-existing culture, then placing the bacteria into test tubes containing media broth with varying concentrations of alginate, and incubating the test tubes overnight.  The next day, we would use the r3bEL Bioprinter to print assays of the bacteria, along with varying concentrations of penicillin streptomycin in an indicator solution of X-GAL and Isopropyl β-D-1-thiogalactopyranoside (IPTG). The 3D bioprints would exhibit varying levels of blue dye from the X-GAL/IPTG solution depending on how much of the bacteria had survived. A time curve study was also conducted in the lab to ensure the viability of the 16-hour incubation period, in which we monitored the amounts of released indicator dye in the bacteria over time based on different concentrations of alginate, to ensure that the bacteria reached its peak survival phase at 16 hours. The petri dishes from both the time curve study and the normal experiments were then analyzed and compared to find trends of survival across concentrations of alginate and antibiotics.

The Outcome
Overall, the bacterial survival indicated that alginate increased the antimicrobial resistance of bacteria when added to biofilms, and penicillin streptomycin resulted in reduced viability of cultures, which supported our hypotheses. The project earned us a first place prize in the category Biology Microbiology Molecular Biology (BMMB). However, more than the award and the scientific discovery, this project was also a valuable experience for my partner and me. By showing us what it was like to work in a laboratory setting, the experiments piqued our interest in biology and biotechnology. 3D bioprinting proved to be a sophisticated technology, involving  hands-on interaction with physical and biological systems, making science accessible, interesting, and often even fun. Throughout the project, we also learned many valuable lessons, including the importance of discipline, consistency, and safe laboratory practices when working in a laboratory, conducting scientific experiments, or analyzing data. This experience will likely influence the choices we make for the rest of our educational careers, including the selection of majors and the use of technology in further pursuits, especially the r3bEL 3D bioprinter.

Concluding Thoughts and Advice for Prospective Students
I feel like I have found my passion. This application of biotechnology to the microbiology field was amazing to me, and over the course of the project, I have grown in this area. I am fortunate to have an invite from Dr. Lim to return to continue my work with SE3D. I have a number of ideas that I wish to explore as next steps, but as I have learned over the last 5 months, those steps will come one at a time, with discipline and rigor.

My advice for high school students who are interested in bioscience fields is to explore and experiment. I was able to get the opportunity to do this project because I pursued my interests in different fields, including 3D bioprinting technology. If I hadn't followed my interest in biology and modern technology, I would have never acquired the valuable experiences that came with doing this project. Don't be afraid to explore new fields, even if it's just to gain experience.

SE3D bioprinting platform helps students explore multiple fields with one device. 3D printing has been used primarily to make solid objects for many years now, but SE3D has extended that technology in a way that allows applications to scientific fields. This cross-disciplinary thinking enabled our project, and will help others like us become interested in technology and biology.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Super Scary Superbugs

Superbugs refer to strains of bacteria that cannot be killed using multiple antibiotics. Per the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), roughly 2 million people get sick from superbugs every year and about 23,000 of them die. An elderly American woman died in the US recently after having contracted an infection while being treated for a thigh bone fracture in India two years ago. Tests showed no drug or combination of drugs available in the US would have cured the infection. But where did these superbugs come from and why are they a problem now?

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is the ability of a microbe to resist the effects of medication previously used to treat them. It is a result of misusing antibiotics and evolution at work. Misusing antibiotics is when antibiotics are taken when they aren’t needed or not finished when they are needed. This leads to antibiotics becoming less effective for future bacterial infections and the development of antibiotic resistance genes. Studies have found that after just one course of antibiotics, the risk of having organisms with AMR increases by 50%. This is the most important factor contributing to AMRs.

Antibiotic resistance in bacteria is also the result of evolution with vertical transmission, or natural selection. If there are any mutations that increase an individual’s ability to survive and reproduce, it is favored through natural selection and passed down from parent to offspring. There is also evolution with horizontal transfer, where bacteria acquire new DNA from each other in the form of plasmids. Plasmids can be passed on to any bacteria regardless of how closely they are related to each other.

Current State
Many strains of bacteria have evolved into deadly superbugs that are highly resistant to many antibiotics. Those with healthy immune systems are now susceptible as well. No new classes of antibiotics have reached the market in 30 years and without high incentive, large pharmaceutical companies are less motivated to solve this global challenge.

The WHO (World Health Organization) has published a list of twelve antibiotic resistant ‘priority pathogens’. All Priority 1 Pathogens are uncommon amongst healthy people but are extremely drug resistant and lethal to the infected. At the very top of the list is A. baumannii, commonly referred to as the Iraqibacter, which has been plaguing veterans and soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Iraqibacter has also spread to civilian hospitals via infected soldier transportation to necessary medical facilities.

Future Actions
Superbugs are increasingly prevalent and resistance to last line of defense drugs. It is imperative that AMRs are recognized as an international issue and immediate actions be taken. Pharmaceutical companies must recognize the possible upcoming epidemic and begin research on new forms of antibiotics. The general populace must be brought to a greater awareness of their own contributions to antibiotic resistant bacteria. WHO has already approved of an AMR global action blueprint plan that can be tailor fitted to every countries’ individual needs. However, these plans must be implemented and taken seriously to have full effectivity. Real change is required to stop this global issue.

Contributed by Cecillia Wong

Eloit, M., Dr, Chan, M., Dr, & Graziano da Silva, J. (2016, September 21). Superbugs: Why We Need Action Now. Retrieved February 28, 2017 article link
Miller, K. (2015, April 17). Superbugs: What They Are and How You Get Them. Retrieved February 28, 2017 article link

Up Next: Check out what these high school students did over the winter quarter to tackle AMR

Our next educational workshop in bioprinting involves printing of live bacteria for assay testing. To register for this workshop, click here.


Sunday, March 19, 2017

3D Printed Food: A Taste of Science


There has always been a marriage of food and science throughout history. Before modern biotechnology was used to produce desired traits in plants and animals, farmers would raise and breed livestock that produced the most milk or best marbling. Food scientists also help determine each ingredient’s optimal condition for harvesting, preservation, and cooking.  From molecular gastronomy to chocolate printing, science has radically changed how we cook, present, and taste food.


3D printers and bioprinters are revolutionizing the food industry by unlocking unlimited potentials for taste, touch and sight.

1.    Taste
3D food printers with specific focuses are already in circulation such as the successfully crowd-funded Pancakebot or Bocusini. 3D printing food does not require any sacrifices in taste. In fact with the help of several techniques from molecular gastronomy, 3D printed food has the potential to taste even better than regular foods. There was even a pop up restaurant London that specialized 3D printed meals!

2.    Touch
Texture is a vital property of food that can define the enjoyment and acceptance of a meal.
Young children and older adults with chewing or swallowing problems may be unable to eat foods with regular textures. Those with sensory processing disorders may also find it difficult to eat crunchy or harder textures.

3D food printers allow for soft ingredients to reach various stages of preparation: partially for baked goods or full prepared and finished food prints. Food printers are also not limited to extremely soft textures but can prepare dishes that will eventually solidify over time, such as with chocolate and jello!

3.    Sight
The definition of food presentation in the dictionary is: “the art of modifying, processing, arranging, or decorating food to enhance its aesthetic appeal.” Our first experience of a new dish is generally rated by appearance, smell, and finally by taste.

Pureed diets are typically lacking in presentation. Mashed potatoes, oatmeal, and other soft foods have a generic scoop plate configuration that is mostly unappealing. 3D food printers offer a creative solution to texturally unappealing soft foods. With a high degree of customizability, any pureed or ground dish can be turned into a complex geometric shape, or even resemble a work of art. Grandma’s Thanksgiving carrot and broccoli puree has never looked more appetizing (and Instagram friendly!)


Chocolate printing is an industry game changer: allowing for unlimited customizability, increased efficiency, and elevating education. With a computer aided extrusion control, skill-essential designs such as intricate geometric shapes and personalized messages will no longer be limited to the pâtissiers. This would bring lower costs in terms of time and production for highly customizable edible decors. As 3D food printers become more mainstream, highly decorated food art is only within the reach of an average home cook. 

We have recently explored into food technology using our very own 3D bioprinter r3bEL. In fact, last month we hosted a bioprinting workshop focused on chocolate printing. Stay tuned for more upcoming workshops and events by subscribing to our blog. 

Thanks for reading!

Monday, March 6, 2017

What does 3D printing bring to future kitchens?


The Technology 

Additive manufacturing has really transformed many areas of our lives today from desktop 3D printers to food printers that could produce custom designed personalized nutritional meals in every home one day. This month, our team has decided to take a closer look at the evolution of Food Printing. As far as food printers go, the use of additive manufacturing techniques spans from the basic extrusion based systems to powder and liquid binding deposition techniques. This allows the end-user to leverage the different material properties to achieve simple to complex shapes that can be created using each technique. In extrusion based food printers which may or may not involve melting, common materials that can be printed are typically soft materials like cheese, peanut butter, dough and chocolate which requires melting. One of the key challenges in this approach is the need for materials that are being printed to be viscous enough to hold its shape under gravity after printing. Shapes that can be achieved using extrusion based printers are typically limited to be a 2D extrusion by layering. A more sophisticated method to create complex shapes in food printing is to utilize powder based laser sintering. In this case, the materials that begin as a bed of powder is fused together by applying heat, infrared laser and hot air. Currently the only material that is being used for such a technique is sugar to make decorative confectionary. The figure below shows the evolution of food printers that have emerged in the market.

Printable vs non-printable foods
To successfully print food materials, one must first assess the properties needed to achieve printing of 3D structures. In general, the food material must be viscous enough to be extruded and then hold its structure after being printed. Some materials such as cheese, chocolate and icing are natively “printable” on extrusion based 3D printers while other materials such as vegetables and meats may require modifications or transformation prior to printing. A team of food innovators and experts at Cornell University and the French Culinary Institute showed how turkey, scallop and celery can be processed and modified to create 3D printed shapes that would still maintain their structure even after slow cooking or deep frying them. They added a food additive called transglutaminase to ensure printability of each food material. This is just one of many examples today of the innovation behind food printing and what the future might bring.

Future of food printing
In the “not-too-distant” future, food printers will become a common household appliance in every home, offering personalized nutrition that can be delivered in both an artistic and creative manner. Food printing can offer a precise personalized nutrition plan to tailor fit an individual’s needs and even accommodate special diets. Those living with diabetes could benefit from custom 3D printed meals with specifications for exact daily sugar intake.  It can also be used to help athletes achieve the desired physique by printing the optimal calories for cutting, bulking, or maintaining weight. Medical devices that oversee health can work injunction with 3D printers to produce meals that moderate vitamin and essential protein levels.  It can also help the consumer enjoy the required nutrients in an aesthetically pleasing way via complex geometric patterns or shapes as opposed to a much less savory pill or powder form. 3D food printers offer many flexible ways to solve human dietary issues through concise measurements and appealing nutritional distribution.

To learn more about food printing technology, come to our next workshop.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

My 3D printer can bioprint... right? NOT

Ear scaffold printed by r3bEL bioprinter

Plastic widget printed by a typical 3D printer

By Mayasari Lim, Ph.D.

When the r3bEL from SE3D is on display at CES, NSTA or other educational events focused on STEM, the first impression is that it’s another 3D printer like those manufactured by MakerBot or Dremel. As you move in closer and notice that there is no spool for filament, one becomes a bit puzzled and asks the question,
“Dr. Lim, this is a 3D printer right?”
In some ways but its features and applications are very different than the 3D printers most educators are familiar with. While the r3bEL may have the basic physical structure and platform resembling a 3D printer, it has certain distinct features that cannot be produced in 3D printers typically found in schools. The r3bEL is actually classified as a “bioprinter” for the following;
FACT #1 – It does not print plastic!
Most desktop 3D printers like MakerBot are based on fused deposition modeling (FDM). It takes in plastic filament and extrudes plastic in a molten form to create 3D objects. It’s commonly used in classes where a plastic object (model) is required as the assignment. A bioprinter, on the other hand, prints organic matter and materials that are either liquid or gel based. Because of its output, it can;
FACT #2 – It can print cells!
It means that you can print anything from honey to collagen to chocolate to food paste to living cells. Living cells? Yes! With a bioprinter, you can print living cells such as bacteria, algae and animal cells. Because you can print most viscous material, the possibility exists for anyone to print a variety of materials with applications across multiple industries. These applications include and are not limited to life sciences, biotechnology, biomedicine and the food industry.

     Conrad Weiser High Schools Summer 
     the next level with bioprinting. 

     Read Matthew Nojiri's article entitled 
     "Conrad Weiser High School science program
     on the cutting edge" by visiting

Over the past decade, the applications of bioprinting have been steadily growing in the biomedical industry particularly in the area of tissue printing. For example, small and large pharmaceutical companies are trying to create tissue analogs that would be more representative of real human tissue to help them develop better drugs thus reducing our reliance on animal testing. Other research groups and companies are creating bioartificial tissue for tissue replacement therapy. There are many more applications in for this technology in other industries including agriculture, food science, and green technology to name a few.
With technology advancing so rapidly and the growing number of applications, it is important for educators to utilize industry relevant tools like the r3bEL to prepare students for careers in science, medicine and other related technologies.

SE3D Education, a division of SE3D, creates desktop bioprinting devices and lab robotics for training next generation STEM workforce.


Monday, December 12, 2016

SE3D Education Launches Science Lab Innovators Program

Leading educational initiatives and innovation in science, SE3D Education has launched its 2017 Science Lab Innovators Program (SLIP). The SLIP Program is comprised of select teachers in K-12 charter, public, and private schools, vocational training institutions, colleges and other related programs who are pioneering bioscience-focused education through innovative curriculum and lab programs.

“It is our mission, with the support of the National Science Foundation (NSF), to stimulate interest in science through experiences that prepare and propel the next generation of biomedical scientists, engineers and innovators” stated Dr. Mayasari Lim, CEO at SE3D Education. “The Science Lab Innovators Program (SLIP) is our way of accentuating the Science in STEM by bringing together talented educators, initiatives and ingenuity to pursue that mission. We are very excited to offer this program for 2017”

Participants in the SLIP program will have access to an exclusive knowledge base of content and curriculum, collaboration with industry professionals, and online training/development workshops to support their efforts. SE3D is also deeply discounting their 3D printing technology making it affordable for school science labs with tight budgets.

SE3D Education is currently showcasing their science lab technology with the NSF at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in January 2017 and at the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) annual conference in March.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

SE3D Partners with Nepris for Professional Development Programs

SE3D Education is excited to be partnering with Nepris to teacher development webinars on how 3D bioprinting can be used in science classrooms for applications in biotechnology, green technology, and food science. Nepris is a cloud-based platform that connects industry professionals into classrooms bringing relevance and application into curriculums.

Dr. Mayasari Lim, CEO of SE3D will explore how this innovative tool enhances the learning experience of students to stimulate interest in science. This session is especially helpful for teachers and educators who are exploring how this technology is applicable to STEM, NGSS and CTE initiatives. 

This session will be held Thursday, December 1 at 1pm PST/4pm EST. If you are interested in participating, please select this link to sign-up.

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