Cardiovascular Explorer George Pantalos Turns to Testing COVID-19 Test Kits
“Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures,” Hippocrates declared. Now, as the coronavirus pandemic engulfs the world, pre-eminent scientists and students at major institutions of higher learning are joining in the fight to combat the virus by developing tests, vaccines and possible treatments.
Amongst these is George Pantalos, PhD, Prof. of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery and Prof. of Bioengineering at the University of Louisville, KY. George, one of Transonic’s original advocates and most innovative flow enthusiasts, has temporarily turned his attention away from circulatory support model development to sterilizing and testing a 3D printed swab for use in coronavirus testing. What could be more compelling than bench testing heart assist devices or surgical containment devices for use in outer space? Working with and encouraging bioengineering students to contribute solutions to this global health crisis!
In response to a request from the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the University of Louisville’s Additive Manufacturing Institute of Science & Technology (AMIST) - along with faculty and students in the Schools of Dentistry, Engineering and Medicine - developed a promising solution for the shortage of swabs in COVID-19 test kits.
They are using a 3D print lab in the School of Dentistry which is generally used in prosthodontic fabrication of dental implants, crowns and jaw bones. AMIST collaborated with business partners Envisiontech on a resin to meet the material requirements for the swab, and NewPro3D helped develop a faster printing time. The goal is to print 385 swabs in less than an hour, and then to make the manufacturing processes available to companies within the state for large-scale production.
Justin Gillham, an undergraduate mechanical engineering student and member of the AMIST co-op, worked closely on the project. “Once I had a design complete, I sent it to Ed Tackett and Dr. Grant to print. With their feedback, I could change my design within minutes and have a new swab ready to be tested. In just a few days, we went through many designs that we could then test and change almost immediately,” Gillham said.
Dr. Pantalos sterilized and tested the swabs at the University’s Cardiovascular Innovation Institute, ensuring they could absorb enough solution material to be viable. Bioengineering students Sienna Shacklette and Clara Jones are working under his direction to assemble the test kits. In one week they compiled more than 700 kits with commercially available swabs which were immediately sent throughout Kentucky to test individuals for COVID-19.
The test kits with 3D printed swabs will be used in a validation clinical trial. With favorable results, it is anticipated they will be ready for use widely as early as the beginning of May.
Ed Tackett, director of workforce development at AMIST said, “This effort adds to the list of our response during the pandemic, including 3D printed face shields, respirators and ventilators being manufactured through the expertise of our institute. We hope our work will provide the necessary tools for Kentucky, as well as our local health care facilities.”