Aug. 29, 2014

Imagine printing a kidney or human liver. This will be possible one day. From science fiction to science fact, 3D printing are making their way into the world of medicine.

Yesterday a Chinese man undergo surgery to repair his skull after a horrible fall. Crucially, a titanium mesh cover was placed on his brain, that was especially printed using 3D printing technology. The surgery took three and half hours, and surgeons successfully implanted a 3D printed mesh. Before the surgery, doctors printed out 3D model of his skull, which allows them to practice on it before going into the operation room, and it can also be used as a guide for treating the patient during the operation.

Also in Beijing, doctors have performed the world’s first vertebra replacement surgery using customized vertebra created with a 3D printer, for a 12-year-old boy who had developed cancer.

In the U.S., Cornell University researchers have engineered artificial human ears that look and act like the real thing using a 3D printer, giving hope to patients missing all or part of their ears.

An ear is difficult to reproduce with synthetic prostheses because ear cartilage is very unique. It is flexible but well strong, so the typical way is to carve a replacement ear out of rib cartilage. But the process is often painful, especially for children, as the ears rarely look natural or perform well. To make the ears, researchers at Cornell University first built a plastic mold based on the digitized 3D image. A high-density, injectable gel made of living cells helps fill the mold. Once the mold is removed, cartilage was grown on the collagen. And using human cells, specifically those from the same patient, would reduce any possibility of rejection.

At the St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York, Dr. Faiz Y. Bhora, director of thoracic surgical oncology hopes to be the first to successfully implant 3D-printed tracheas in human patients. They uses a 3D printer to produce tracheas from completely biologic materials primed with stem cells for growth. The hope is that such implants will decrease – or perhaps even eliminate – the need for additional surgeries to remove or replace the implants as the customized trachea would grow along with the patient and never need to be replaced. This would have incredible health benefits – especially for young patients who may grow substantially after receiving an implant.

Again in New York, a team of surgeons at NYU Langone Medical Center headed by Dr. David L. Hirsch performed a cutting-edge jaw surgery on a patient with a fast growing tumor called ameloblastoma. Tumors of the mandible are complex, often requiring replacement of bone, soft tissue, and teeth. The team used 3D printing to help plan and execute the surgery and make tools. After removing a large section of the patient’s jaw bone with the tumor, the surgeons then rebuilt the patient’s jaw using a section of the fibula bone, which was implanted with dental prosthesis in one operation. This was the first time the operation was ever performed in the United States. 3D printing helps doctors to plan every step of the operation virtually get optimal results.

“This technology is limitless. The only thing that’s limited is our ability to think about new applications for it.” said Dr. Hirsch in the video below.

Posted in 3D Printing Applications

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