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CQUni students use 3D printing to get close to understanding Influenza virus

Published:28 September 2017

CQUni Medical Laboratory students conducted 3D printing of viruses as part of their residential school.

With Queensland recently experiencing one of its worst flu epidemics, CQUniversity Medical Laboratory Science students are using 3D printing to better understand the virus.

As part of their residential school, the students engaged in a new approach utilising 3D printing to produce models of pathogenic viruses to support teaching and research in microbiology.

With over 20 years’ experience in Molecular Virology, Senior Lecturer in Medical Laboratory Science at CQUniversity Dr Padraig Strappe, who is leading the initiative said the exercise was a unique collaboration between medical science and engineering.

“CQUni has a state-of-the-art 3D printing facility which is largely used for engineering applications, however the Medical students will use this technology to begin to understand concepts about how viruses are formed and enter cells, and how parts of the virus can be targets for therapeutic intervention” he said.

“Viruses cannot be seen with the naked eye and working with pathogenic viruses is untenable for undergraduates. 3D printing allows scaling up of the structure of these viruses so students can learn more about virus structure and shape, and relate these features to pathogenesis and recent outbreaks.”

“For example we are in the middle of a flu epidemic and from printing a high resolution influenza virus we can highlight the part of the virus (haemmagluttin) that changes every year, causing new outbreaks and the need for annual vaccination.”  

Dr Strappe said the cross-collaborative exercise provided students with a unique experience and skills to make them highly desirable professionals in the field.

“This project exposes medical science students to engineering concepts such as computer-aided design and advanced manufacturing, which they normally wouldn’t encounter in their degree. This helps students to think beyond the confines of their own subject and develop interdisciplinary skills which students will need in the field.”