NIH Opens Up Biomedical Knowledge with 3D Printed Medical Models
You know how you’re always saying that everything should be free? Especially science stuff? Maybe you’re not saying that, unless you’re broke, but it’s definitely something that I shout at ads on the TV. Finally, my (possibly your) wants are starting to be met, at least in the realm of science. The USA’s National Institute of Health (NIH) has created an online platform for the exchange of 3D printable biomedical files.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in partnership with the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development and the National Library of Medicine have created the NIH 3D Print Exchange. And, so far, the public beta site is awesome! It’s filled with free, 3D printable models of all of your favorite viruses, proteins and simple lab equipment. Want a 3D model of e.coli? Or how about an Agarose gel comb
for Electrophoresis? See the myriad of models already up on the site in the promo reel below:
If you feel as though the 3D Print Exchange is missing the molecular structure of your recently discovered macromolecule, you can design and upload your own printable files. Of course, we can’t expect every doctor/scientist/educator to know how to create CAD models of such things, so the NIH is trying to make it as simple as possible. The site will have prewritten scripts that can turn 3D medical data, such as free models from the Electron Microscopy Database, into 3D printable files using the open-source UCSF Chimera software package.
“Hey!” someone might say, “I’m not a doctor or a scientist. What’s the point of all of this free, 3D printable biomedical stuff?” These biomedical models, at the moment, may be great for educating students about a variety of chemical or anatomical structures. Moreover, doctors researching diseases and potential cures can 3D print models to communicate to other researchers about the makeup of a given virus or medicine so that they can understand it at a tangible level. As users expand the catalogue of medical models through 3D scanning, doctors dealing with a medical problem, such as a unique heart deformity, can review the online database for similar cases. And the lab equipment uploaded to the Exchange can be customized to fit the needs of specific labs so that, rather than order expensive components, such as an LED filter adapter from a supplier, they can obtain it more quickly and cheaply via 3D printing. The platform also paves the way for future technological developments that may take place. In a world where medicine, medical devices and prosthetics are all 3D printable, users may be able to go to a site like 3D Print Exchange and share files. NIH gets into the uses of 3D printing in medicine and their new site below:
All of the benefits of the NIH site are magnified for those in developing countries. 3D printable models for education may be more affordable than those purchased from manufacturers and access to knowledge produced by leading research institutions may become increasingly more accessible. When the site does begin to introduce 3D printable medical devices and the like, users in remote areas will be able to 3D print objects like prostheses for their local populations.
This is very exciting stuff! I can’t wait for Pfizer to get the hint and upload their chemical formulas to the NIH 3D Print Exchange. [Ed: It may take a while, Pfizer is currently too busy aiming for pharma world domination in its bid to acquire Astra Zeneca!]
Hat tip to Pjotr du Mât on Facebook.
Source: NIH 3D Print Exchange