I came to Hopkins wanting to do research on cell printing. I even wrote about it in my admissions essay. This technology is already incredible…I feel honored to have received the PURA. It’s encouraging that many people, in addition to my family and friends, have so much faith in me.
Sarah Hewes was selected as recipient of a Summer 2014 Provost’s Undergraduate Research Award (PURA) for her project “3D printing of functional hydrogel-encapsulated microvessels.”
“I feel honored to have received the PURA. It’s encouraging that many people, in addition to my family and friends, have so much faith in me.”
Dr. Peter Searson serves as a faculty sponsor of her research. Sarah has worked in Dr. Searson’s lab since early fall of her freshman year.
“The Searson lab originally caught my eye when I read that they were working on artificial blood vessels. At the time I thought that meant cell printing or something close, but they’re actually using a variety of other methods to try to model the blood brain barrier for drug and cancer related studies. It’s difficult to harvest and use blood vessels from humans, so being able to print human blood vessels and capillaries would accelerate research on how cancer spreads, how fast drugs enter the brain, and how blood vessels work.”
Sarah has had an interest in materials science since prior to arriving at JHU.
“I came to Hopkins wanting to do research on cell printing. I even wrote about it in my admissions essay. This technology is already incredible. People have printed sections of livers that produce enzymes, and a part of a heart that really beats. They also printed a scaffold for a bladder that they were able to seed with cells and successfully transplant into a patient. Cell printing works quite well with flat tissues or hollow organs, but if you try to print solid organs, you run into problems.”
The goal of her PURA project is to fabricate blood vessels as a platform for in vitro research, offering a step toward creating blood vessels that could be used in tissues to create artificial organs that can be transplanted into humans.
“Currently, there’s no good way to create the intricate network of blood vessels that nourish the cells within the tissue. If successful, the knowledge gained from this project could be used to find a way to print functional vasculature within a tissue…An unlimited supply of artificial organs, created with a patient’s own cells so there’s no risk of rejection; that’s the ultimate goal.”