3D printer will use ‘bioink’ to create brain tissue
It’s hard to track an animal you can’t see, which is why a new technology that can test water and soil samples for discarded DNA has been met with great excitement.
University of Victoria molecular biologist Caren Helbing, a professor and Saanich resident of 20 years, was granted $185,000 from B.C. Innovation Council’s annual Ignite Awards towards the commercialization of a tool to that could test for “environmental DNA” (eDNA).
Helbing is one of two UVic researchers to win an Ignite Award, as UVic biomedical engineer Stephanie Willerth won $139,700 towards a 3D print technology that uses “bioink” to create a human neural tissue for the brain.
To have UVic researchers win two of the four Ignite awards is significant, said Helbing, whose DNA testing project is in partnership with environmental consulting firm Hemmera Envirochem and environmental laboratory Maxxam Analytics.
“The way our test works is, basically, all organisms that are alive will slough off their [dead] cells into the environment and those cells contain DNA,” Helbing said. “With this [technology], you can go to the site where you think the animal lives and simply take a sample of water from a pond or stream, or of soil, and we can isolate DNA from that sample and determine what organism it came from.”
Maxxam Analytics will produce the eDNA tester, a first of its kind. It’s expected to expedite the work of researchers tracking threatened and endangered species, and also save them time and money. It could eventually be applied to plants, too, Helbing said. Ideally, the analysis could be completed as fast as one day.
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