Device for Automated Selection and Placement of Cell Clusters Within Biofabricated Tissue Constructs, Race and Income: The Inequality of Organ Transplantation

Mcquain, Garrett, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Highley, Chris

Addressing Barriers in Organ Transplantation
Each year, over 6,000 Americans die while waiting for an organ transplant. The largest
single cause of these deaths is a lack of available organs; however, inequalities in our healthcare
system are also a contributing factor. Both my technical and STS projects focus on making organ
transplants more accessible and effective. For my technical project, my team and I built a cell
selection and placement device, designed to be adapted into existing 3D bioprinting technology.
For my STS project, I investigated the technical, organizational, and cultural factors that lead to
less organ transplants and worse health outcomes for minority groups.
The technical portion of my thesis produced an inexpensive micromanipulator device to
aid current 3D bioprinting technologies. The greatest challenge today in conducting research on
artificial tissue constructs is that bioprinters only have the capability to print homogenous, in
vivo compatible, scaffolds. The process of seeding living cell clusters into this scaffold requires
that the cell clusters either be placed individually by hand or be placed by a commercial cell
selection device, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars. The device that my team built can
be assembled from readily available parts for less than $500. It consists of a mount, a 3-axis
stepper motor system, and a micro syringe apparatus. The stepper motor system and micro
syringe are controlled by an Arduino Uno, which can be connected to and controlled by any
computer. The 3-axis stepper motor system allows our device to position its syringe at any
location with a precision of 100 microns. The micro syringe apparatus gives our device the
ability to aspirate and place cell clusters with a diameter greater than 500 microns. Our device
will make it possible for vastly more research to be conducted on artificial organs by removing
the need for a prohibitive amount of work to be done to seed cell clusters into bioscaffolds.
In my STS research, I investigated the barriers that exist to organ transplantation for
different minority groups using Tomasso Venturini’s research method of Actor Network Theory
and the cartography of controversies. Press et al. (2005) describes how minority racial groups
receive proportionally less organ transplants and worse health outcomes than their white
counterparts. My analysis of these inequalities revealed that the barriers to transplantation can be
broken down into three distinct categories: technical, organizational, and cultural barriers. This
breakdown allows the huge sociotechnical system of organ transplantation to be better
understood by lawmakers and researchers so that improvements can be made to address the
inequality within the system.
When put together, my technical and STS projects represent two different approaches to
improving the same field: organ transplantation. While my technical project aims to accelerate
the production of a future technology, artificial organs, my STS project provides
recommendations on how we can improve our current organ transplantation system to make it
more equitable. Additionally, one of the main conclusions of the technical category of my STS
research was that future technological advances, such as the implementation of artificial organs,
will make organ transplantation more equal. My STS research exemplifies the themes of STS
4500 through its analysis of a real life sociotechnical system. My technical project exemplifies
the themes of STS 4600 through my team’s compliance with the professional standards of our
advisor and medical device regulation
My entire capstone team would like to acknowledge and thank Dr. Chris Highley,
Associate Professor of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering, for his guidance and support as
our capstone advisor

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Issued Date: