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3D printer

A cell in the palm of the hand

Prototype of 3D-printed monocyte: 15,000 times larger than the original

Augusto, I. et al. PLOS ONE Prototype of 3D-printed monocyte: 15,000 times larger than the originalAugusto, I. et al. PLOS ONE

School classes on cell structures may be less abstract in the future if it depends on Marco Guimarães, a veterinarian specialized in immunology at the Federal University of Espírito Santo (UFES), and Kildare Miranda, a biophysicist at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), who produced 3D digital models of blood cells and transformed them into “real” cells using 3D printers. “We used scientific research tools to make this material available outside the academic world,” says Guimarães. 3D printers are becoming common, and the printing itself is the easy part. The hard part is digitizing the cells and knowing how much to enlarge their structures. Three techniques were used to reproduce the cells, which were enlarged by as much as 34,000 times: serial sectioning of the cells to obtain internal images, tomography to break them down into virtual layers, and vectorization of 2D images (PLOS ONE, August 15, 2016). “The printed prototypes were generated from virtual models of real cells and not artist’s models. This makes them more realistic,” the veterinarian explains. The duo intends to set up a site to receive digital files from collaborators. The images will be available to download and print at no cost.