Dr. John A. Szivek

Dr. John A. Szivek holds a bone healed with 3D printing.

With a major research university right in our back yard, a strong military presence and innovative companies spread throughout the metro region, there’s often a plethora of interesting science and technology news to be found in Southern Arizona. Here’s a breakdown of the most interesting recent developments from the region:

Printing Bones. Using a combination of 3D printing and adult stem cells, the University of Arizona College of Medicine is helping military personnel recover from serious injuries. Funded by a $2 million Department of Defense grant, Dr. John A. Szivek is leading the project and exploring “3D printed scaffolds,” which are plastic, bone-shaped frames that can replace missing or broken bone segments. The printed scaffolds are then filled in with calcium particles and adult stem cells, serving as templates on which the bones naturally grow. Researchers are now testing how durable these printed bones are. To do so, the 3D implants will be embedded with tiny sensors that can wirelessly transmit exercise activity, such as pressure. The human body naturally attempts to regrow missing or damaged bone for a few months after an injury, but eventually gives up on the process, instead filling it in with scar tissue. Dr. Szivek also hopes this potential therapy can help bone cancer patients recover more effectively. 

Pima Community College opens high-tech “Makerspace.” On Nov. 9, Pima Community College opened its East Campus Makerspace, funded through the Hispanic Serving Institution-STEM “Project EPIC” grant. The Makerspace features a slew of high tech tools for students to work and learn on. The space, funded by the Project EPIC (Engage, Prepare, Inspire, Challenge) grant, includes 3D printers, laser cutters, interactive whiteboards and more. The location, on the PCC East Campus, now offers state-of-the-art learning opportunities for students in STEM majors and others. 

Antarctic Melting Altering Climate Change. Ice sheet melt in Antarctica is delaying the warming of the atmosphere, but worsening sea level rise, according to a UA-led research paper published in the scientific journal Nature. According to study author Ben Bronselaer, a postdoctoral research associate in the UA department of geosciences, global warming won’t happen as fast as originally thought, but sea level rise will be worse. According to the team’s projections, by the year 2100 sea levels could rise as much as 10 inches greater than the previous estimate of 30 inches by 2100, and melting ice will cause the global temperature to increase by 3.6 fahrenheit by the year 2065, rather than the year 2053 as previously projected. Senior author of the study Joellen Russell, who is an associate professor of geosciences and holds the Thomas R. Brown Distinguished Chair of Integrative Science, said in addition to slowing warming and increasing sea level, the melting of the Antarctic ice sheet will change precipitation patterns across the planet.

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