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Perhaps nothing embodies Harrisburg University’s entrepreneurial spirit more than the ground-breaking research the University’s professors engage students in on and off campus.

From assessing population trends to help save endangered animals from extinction, to developing innovative teaching tools and conducting studies to help clean up polluted waterways, at HU research is a priority that gives students hands-on experience while advancing their respective fields of study.

One Harrisburg University research project that recently made national headlines involves the use of a 3D printer to produce skin grafts for severe burn victims and patients who have suffered a variety of skin wounds.

Led by Biotechnology Professor Leena Pattarkine and Glenn Mitchell, Professor of Healthcare Informatics, a team of professors and a graduate student used University Presidential Research Grant funds to develop a small syringe extruder prototype that will allow physicians to produce collagen-based skin grafts via a 3D printer.

Instead of harvesting skin from a cadaver, or another area of a patient’s body, physicians will use the extruder to blend a patient’s skin cells with collagen, which will be molded to seamlessly fit wounds, including burns, scrapes, and cuts.

Not only will the procedure minimize the risks of rejection and infection, it will reduce scarring and discoloration, both common characteristics of traditional skin graft procedures. The process also has the potential to markedly lower the cost of skin graft operations and supply hospitals most in need.

The project has been funded via Presidential Research Grant, an in-house resource HU President Eric Darr awards to numerous projects annually to promote research that can, and will, change the world.

Since chartered in 2005, the University has evolved into an educational, research and economic development facility, Darr said, adding that HU has founded, or partnered with numerous companies to blend education with innovative economic development that continues to benefit Harrisburg, the region, Pennsylvania and beyond.

In addition to the experience research bestows upon students, and the real-world problems it solves, he said it heightens the visibility of the University.

“People pay attention to the work that gets done because it solves real-world problems and that raises the visibility of Harrisburg University,” Darr recently told the Central Penn Business Journal.  “We made a turn from focusing on just teaching to focusing on teaching and research in a very conscious way by bringing on faculty that have research portfolios.”

President Darr awarded Leena and Glenn a Presidential Research Grant for the second straight year to develop the HU Center for Applied Regenerative Medicine, with the focus on the development of a syringe extruder for the development of 3D printed skin grafts.

The funding continues HU’s work with regenerative medicine, a promising field that has the potential to provide relief for several chronic health conditions.

Involving students in this project gives them a chance to develop research skills in the fast-growing field of regenerative medicine and tissue engineering. And not many institutions offer such advanced topics to students, and this will give our students a distinct advantage.

Below are links to several recent news stories detailing the revolutionary research Leena, Glenn, students and other members of their team continue to accomplish at Harrisburg University: