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A three-dimensional solution

Human body parts are currently being replaced by inanimate objects. This isn't a horror movie. It's an engineering lab

Graduate student Louis Krieger designs 3D models to replace skin and tissue in medical product testing and training. Like many scientists, Krieger's goal is to develop solutions to issues plaguing society. Krieger is working toward a Master's degree in the Chemical, Paper and Biomedical Engineering Department.

After first settling into life as an undergraduate at Miami, Krieger decided to join the research lab of Jessica Sparks and continues to work under her mentorship. His efforts in the lab have focused on designing life-like 3D models of skin and tissue. These models exhibited similar swelling and physical properties to living organisms. This has the potential to transform medical training by shifting testing on cadavers, animals and clinical trial participants over to 3D models.

With his recent transition from undergraduate to graduate student, Krieger has also shifted the focus of his research, though he remains in the same lab. Grateful for the breadth of study he was exposed to as an undergraduate, he now enjoys the ability to take courses focusing on areas in which he has found a passion.

He is currently using 3D models to create training aids to teach nursing students about early-stage pressure ulcers, commonly known as bedsores.The 3D models used in this study are tactile recreations of images taken of early-stage pressure ulcers. These ulcers affect those on bed rest and paraplegic individuals, such as veterans recovering from combat injuries.

"These ulcers are the result of the bone compressing the artery and blocking its ability to distribute nutrients to a specific area," Krieger said. "At very early stages, this is reversible by simply moving the patient; blood circulation will resume allowing the ulcer to correct itself. These ulcers can range from mild discoloration of the skin to severe tissue damage, infection of the muscle or bone, and even death."

Pressure ulcers are a serious health issue. The Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality reported that approximately 2.5 million people were affected by pressure ulcers in 2016 and more than 60,000 patients die annually as a direct result of these ulcers.

Krieger's research aims to make early detection more simple and reliable using paper-based 3D models designed here at Miami.

Since everyone perceives color differently, variations in pigment of the area are quantified using a spectrometer, a scientific instrument which uses light to record and measure differences in color. In his research, Krieger uses it to verify the model printed shows nearly the exact same pigments.

His research experience, Krieger said, has given him more confidence, both in himself and the power of science to solve problems.

"It's easier to come up with solutions than people actually think," Krieger said. "It's just that the scale of them is a lot smaller than people anticipate."