It all started because Amy Karle wanted to grow her own exoskeleton. But after experimenting with 3D printing bones during an artist residency program through Autodesk’s Pier 9 workshop in San Francisco, she set her sights on something smaller and more intimate. She decided to grow a human hand.
Karle has extensive experience working with human limbs, having volunteered at a non-profit organization that prints 3D prosthetic arms for children and makes the designs available for free. She said Ars that she is fascinated by objects that go inside the body, and how parts of our bodies can live outside of us. With her new project “Regenerative Reliquary,” currently on display in San Francisco’s Pier 9 space, she’s brought together all of her obsessions to create a real hand grown from human stem cells on a 3D-printed trellis. .
Working with bioscientist Chris Venter at Pier 9’s Bio/Nano Lab and Autodesk materials scientist John Vericella, Karle designed a bone trellis in CAD based on the dimensions of her own hand. This trellis, which looks like a cross between a skeleton and a piece of jewelry, is made of pegda, a hydrogel used as a cellular growth medium in petri dishes and elsewhere. The structure is modeled on the trabecular structure of the spongy microlattices in the bone that make it flexible. For weeks, she and her collaborators worked to 3D print a pegda trellis on the Ember printer that would hold together in a bioreactor where cells could grow. In the gallery above you can see the hand inside a bioreactor, as well as what the trellis looks like under magnification. Then she needed a cell line to grow on the trellis. said Karel Ars that she had originally hoped to harvest her own stem cells or use cancer cells from a mouse. But both options involved safety concerns, so they and the scientists decided to use human mesenchymal stem cells extracted from bone marrow (of course, you can order human stem cells online). Karle is currently cultivating the cells and the next step in her project will be to grow them on the hand trellis. Once the project is complete, Karle will post instructions on how to build your own hand on the DiY site Instructables.
While waiting for her project to mature, so to speak, Karle is experimenting with other ways to build body parts with 3D printers at Pier 9 – you can see these in the gallery above. She never got her exoskeleton, but she did 3D print a dress that resembles an exoskeleton. She has been studying skeletal structures at the California Academy of Sciences to produce her own alien vertebrae and skulls. She has also grown crystals from a lattice, in abstract imitation of what it is like to grow flesh on a latticework of fabric. Karle’s work reminds us that our bodies are made up of molecules and atoms that are lifeless but come to life when put together in the right patterns. To repair our body, we first have to take it apart. In Karle’s work, this fundamental truth takes on a chilling beauty.