It seems that there is no end to the animals that will benefit from 3D printing and now the process has become so common place it is child’s play. Stumpy came to the Oatland Island Wildlife Center in Savannah, Georgia with a bad infection to his right front leg. In order to save the 12 year old box turtle veterinarian Lesley Mailer amputated the leg. Stumpy lived, but had a very hard time getting around without his front leg. Luckily for Stumpy, Lesley Mailer remembered her daughter mentioning a 3D printer that her 5th grade class at May Howard Elementary was working with. So Mailer contacted the school about creating a new leg for Stumpy.
The school took up the call and choose a few students who were interested in 3D printing and/or animals to work on the project. Six students and a teacher went to work right away to learn about box turtles to understand what Stumpy needed in a new leg. The students were eager to learn and help Stumpy, they spent time after school and during their lunches to design the new leg. Using 3DTin to create 15 prototypes over a month of development the students created a leg that they thought would work for Stumpy. Mailer was just as excited as the students and invited all of them to watch as Stumpy was fitted with his new leg. With just a few minor alterations, Stumpy’s new leg fit perfectly. Now this little box turtle can live out the next 20 to 30 years moving around just as easily as any other turtle. But that doesn’t mean these dedicated students are taking a break, they intend to improve upon their design this year.
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For years computers have been able to create large models of molecules that allow scientists to get a closer look at the microscopic particles. However, this was limited by the fact that scientists only had a flat screen to examine and manipulate the molecule. But once again 3D printers have solved this research hurdle and made it easier for researchers to design more efficient drugs and medical treatments.
Arthur Olson is a molecular biologist at the Molecular Graphics Laboratory at the Scripps Research Institute. Proteins within the body can contain thousands of atoms and this makes it incredibly difficult to see how the proteins fold up or how different molecules interact with the forces around them. 2d models on computers also struggled with this as atoms and molecules would simply go through each other when researchers tried to move them around. With 3d printed models researchers can move the molecules in a way they would naturally interact without worrying about the molecules passing through each other. Another amazing aspect of 3d printed models is that it allows researchers to see how long tunnels within proteins really are. These curvy tunnels allow molecules to pass through the protein but they are very difficult to examine or measure on a 2D model. With the 3D printed models, researchers can easily determine the length of the tunnels.
Arthur Olson is currently using his models to advance the study of HIV. The models are helping him and other scientist understand how the virus functions in order to create drugs that are better able to treat the virus. Ron Zuckerman is using 3D printing to also study proteins and show his students how flexible proteins really are. He is also creating synthetic molecules called peptoids which have the sensitivity of proteins ( to detect things like poisons or explosives in an area) but are able to withstand more extreme conditions (proteins do not do well in hot, cold or dry conditions).
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The world of 3D printing is moving at an incredible pace and that is truly evident in the medical industry. Oxford Performance Materials has not gained FDA approval for their custom 3D printed facial implants. Oxford Performance Materials' OsteoFab Patient-Specific Facial Device is designed to function just like real bone which isn’t all that revolutionary. What is the exciting part is that it can be custom tailed to the anatomy of any patient. This means that when a patient needs facial reconstruction surgery, a new facial structure can be printed instead of custom built by surgeons. These facial implants are created using digital MRI or CT scans from the surgeon. They can be taken in the U.S. and then sent to Oxford Performance Materials where the implants are created and then shipped to the U.S.
Now patients in desperate need of facial reconstruction can find themselves undergoing surgery must faster than before. The surgery is also safer and has a much greater chance that the new face will look just like the old one. Perhaps the best part for patients is that along with all the other benefits, these custom facial implants are cheaper than having surgeons reconstruct the face during surgery. These facial implants have not yet been used in the U.S. but thanks to FDA approval they are now available to all doctors who need them. Oxford Performance Materials also made headlines earlier this year when their cranial implants were able to replace 75% of a patient's skull. It is possible that the combination of facial and cranial implants could be used together to help patients in need of more intensive reconstructive surgery.
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Derby is a happy, energetic dog that just wants to spend days running around and playing. For a typical dog that is not a problem, but Derby has two very deformed front legs. His original owners surrounded him to an animal shelter because they did not know how to care for him. It was through Peace and Paws Dog Rescue that Derby’s story got a happy ending. Tam Anderson saw Derby and knew that she had to foster him. Initially she tried buying the energetic dog a cart to help him get around but it did not move well enough for the pup.
So she and her colleagues had access to 3D printers and the knowledge to make custom prosthetics for Derby. They took several scans of Derby’s elbows and with the help of animal orthotist Derrick Campana they created a design that was a perfect fit. These prosthetics may not look like typical dog paws but that is because they are designed to suit Derby’s needs. The curves provide Derby with traction while also preventing him from digging or getting caught in the dirt as he runs. Derby has taken to the new front paws with ease. From the moment they were attached he was able to run and jump like never before.
Derby has since been adopted and found his forever home. His new family continues to keep up with his prosthetics as adjustments have been needed to ensure lasting comfort. But for now the dedication of just a few people and some 3D printing creativity has created a whole new life for Derby and it may do so for many more dogs in the future.
main image credit: www.buzzfeed.com
Millions of American suffer from damaged menisci (the protective lining of the knee) and this can lead to debilitating arthritis. There are few solutions for a damaged meniscus. Small tears can be sewn but larger tears can only be solved by removal of the meniscus (which reduces pain in the patient) but this leaves the knee without its natural shock absorber between the femur and tibia. Without the meniscus the knee is prone to very bad arthritis. There have been attempts to replace the meniscus using tissue from other parts of the body or from cadavers but this is has a very low success rate.
However, there may be good news on the horizon. Researchers at the Columbia University Medical Center have found a way to regenerate the meniscus in sheep. They start by taking a scan of the healthy knee and then 3d print a scaffold in the exact shape of the undamaged meniscus. It takes about 30 minutes to print and is made from a biodegradable polymer. Once printed the meniscus is infused with two human proteins: connective growth factor and transformative growth factor. By releasing these proteins in a specific order researchers were able to get the body to attract existing stem cells to the body and transform in to meniscus tissue.
(Right) Regenerated meniscus tissue in sheep (Left) control.
Image credit: http://newsroom.cumc.columbia.edu
After the meniscus scaffold is placed in the sheep a new meniscus is formed in about four to six weeks. The scaffold eventually dissolves and is eliminated from the body. This is just the beginning phase of testing so it is not certain how long lasting the meniscus is or what the long term effect may be. But it is revolutionary in its potential to help meniscus damaged patients (both human and animal) and because it works with stem cells inside the body. Previously work with stem cells involved the cells being removed from the body and manipulated in a lab.
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Veterinarians at UC Davis have become known for their cutting edge approaches to caring for animals. One of these approaches involves regrowing the jaws of dogs who were affected by cancer. Removing the cancerous tumors from the jawbone often involves removing large portions of the jaw as well. In the past this surgery would involve opening up the dog after they had recovered from the cancer in order to see how to build a titanium plate.
Now with 3D printing, veterinarians can have the entire titanium plate printed and ready to be implanted without having to open the dog up prior to surgery. This reduces the amount of time the dog is under anesthesia making the entire procedure much safer. Even better is that it increases what veterinarians are able to do to help regrow the jawbone. First the perfectly designed titanium plate is screwed into healthy jaw bone on either side of the gap. Than a scaffolding material soaked in bone growth promoter is placed in the gap of the jaw.
Hoshi received a a new lower jaw. http://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu
In just 10 weeks, the bone growth promoter encourages new bone to grow and fill in the entire gap, recreating the jaw that was lost. Previously, veterinarians were only able to do portions on either side of the jaw. But now with the help of 3D printing they have been able to regrow the entire lower jaw of three dogs. All of the procedures have been successful and the dogs have been able to adjust to their new jaw. However, the procedure is not quite perfect yet. There is no way to grow new teeth into the jawbone so the dogs are left without teeth and must be on a soft diet forever. For now this small sacrifice is worth saving the life of these dogs.
Main image credit: http://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu
It takes a certain type of person to stop and do whatever it takes to save the life of a duck, but that is what happened for Quack Quack. This little duck was attacked by a dog and was left with a severely injured left foot. Following surgery and healing it was discovered that Quack Quack could no longer stretch out his left foot and it had some degree of varus. The deformity in his foot meant that Quack Quack would put all his weight on his right foot and was unable to walk comfortably. This led veterinarians at the National Taiwan University Animal Hospital to reach out to cyberspace for help. Their call was answered by Lung X Lung design, a company based in Taipei who agreed to help out the injured duck.
The team started by painstakingly creating a 3D model of the duck’s foot using 3D Systems’ Cubify Sense 3D scanner. The model then allowed them to use the scanner to print a brace for the injured foot using NinjaFlex material. The brace also included a little shoe that would help protect the foot and keep the brace in place. The innovative brace was a success and it was not long before the little duck was once again on the move. This has been very encouraging for veterinarians working with disabled animals, but unfortunately the process was very time consuming and expensive. All told it took two months and over $3,000 to create the brace and shoe for Quack Quack. The hope in Taiwan and around the world is that as 3D printing becomes more affordable, more animals like Quack Quack can get a second chance.
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In Kenya there is a small flea known as the Jigger or Chigoe flea. This flea does not jump very well but it does bite and this can cause serious problems for people living in Kenya. 2.5 million people, 1.5 million of which are children suffer from jigger infections which can become bad enough to cause secondary infections such as tetanus. Jigger infections can lead to severe deformations and even amputations, most of which occur in the feet.
That is where Roy Ombatti comes in. This 23 year old innovator has made a name for himself as a gifted student that is working hard to change the world in his own way. To that end he created a program geared toward helping those who suffered deformities of the foot following Jigger infections. Those who do have these deformities find it hard to find footwear and therefore walk barefoot. This leaves them open to new infections or other injury. Many times their deformity makes it hard for them to walk. Roy Ombatti’s program creates custom shoes for these individuals using a 3D printer.
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This program is portable and would travel to impoverished areas and areas were Jigger infections are common. In Kenya, 50,000 children dropped out of school over a 20 month period due to Jigger infections. So the 3D printing program would allow these children to return to school by giving them shoes that allow them to walk comfortably again. But that is just the beginning of these program. The 3D printers are designed to use recycled bottles as their filament. This means that not only are these shoes being made cheaply but they are recycling items that are often thrown away in Kenya and around the world. Even better is that the shoes could be made for anyone in need, as custom made shoes are hard to find in Kenya, especially for those in impoverished areas.
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When it comes to testing new drugs the first place that researchers look at is the liver. The reason for this is that the liver's function is to clean the blood. So if a drug is going to have a bad reaction in the body it will most likely show up in the liver. Ideally researchers would like a supply of tiny human livers so that they can continually test new drugs. Up until now, that has been impossible. Using a 3D printer Organovo can create tiny three dimensional livers that can be used to test new drugs. These tiny livers, called exVive3D are made using a bioprinter. There are two heads to this printer, one creates the support structure and the other places the liver cells.
These tiny livers are just a few millimeters in length but they function exactly like a human liver, even producing liver proteins and synthesizing cholesterol. This is a huge difference from the current liver cells used by pharmaceutical companies which are two dimensional and do not always function in the same way as a real organ. These cells are viable for 42 days and have been shown to be able to differentiate between structurally related toxic and non-toxic compounds. It can even detect metabolites. This means that not only can these cells test drug reactions over a period much longer than 2 dimensional cells it can do so much more precisely. The first models will be available to researchers and companies at Organovo facilities so all testing will be done by Organovo researchers, but soon these tiny livers will completely change how drug testing is done.
By now it is no secret that humans are reaping immense benefits from 3D printing, but they are not the only ones. Even animals are returning to happy and healthy lives due to the advances of 3d printing. Oreo is a six year old mixed breed dog in Canada. Oreo had a dislocated hind patella which had to be surgically removed. Once removed Oreo was healthy but he was not able to run, jump or play liked a normal dog his age. This led his veterinarian to reach out to Orthopedic Innovation Center for help with Oreo’s condition.
With a donated patella and scans of Oreo’s healthy patella, OIC was able to create a detailed digital image of Oreo’s missing patella. Then using a 3d printer they created a new patella for Oreo in just four days. The patella was made using bio-compatible polycarbonate and was tested to make sure it would be strong enough to function like a normal patella. The patella was attached to the tendon and quadriceps with polypropylene sutures. Oreo made a complete recovery and regained complete use of his leg just eight weeks after surgery. He can now jump, run and play like a normal dog. FDM printing is revolutionary because it allows for the creation of strong, biocompatible implants that can be perfectly fitted to each patient. Scientists at OIC stated that once they overcome the initial learning curve with creating the patella the production time can be reduced from four days to just two.
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For patients with severe burns the recovery process is not an easy one. Skin grafts are created by cutting pieces of the patient's healthy skin and placing them on the burns. This means that the burned patient has to recover both from the burns and from the wounds created for the skin grafts. In as little as five years this process could be completely different.
Dr. Marc Jeschke is the head of one of Canada's largest burn treatment centers and he calls the current burn treatment barbaric. Working with researchers at the University of Toronto, Jeschke created a printer that can create human skin that mimics the skin of the patient. The process starts with just a few healthy cells from the patient which are then multiplied. The cells are grown in different containers to become exactly the type of cells the doctor's need. The printer takes the cells and puts them where they need to go. The cells are put on a three dimensional matrix that is then ready to be put on the patient.
If this continues to be successful it will be revolutionary for burn patients. It could reduce the time in the hospital from months down to weeks and be much less painful for the patient. However, there is still a long way to go. The process is still two years away from human trials and they currently do not have the funding they need to continue the work for the long haul. There are also technological hurdles to overcome as they need a way to get the cells to multiply and grow at a faster rate than they normally do.
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It seems that in nearly every corner of the world 3d printing is finding new ways to revolutionize modern healthcare. A 71 year-old man in Australia was facing surgery in order to treat a rare form of cartilage cancer in his heel. Most patients who need surgery for this type of cancer end up with an amputation below the knee because it is nearly impossible to walk without a heel and until now there was no easy way to create a heel. But Len Chandler had already survived prostate cancer, two knee replacements and the loss of an eye after a workplace accident was not quite ready to give up. Though he braced for the worst he hoped for another option.
But the surgeons at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne found another option. Instead they scanned Len Chandler’s healthy heel and created a digital image. This allowed them to create a plastic model of his heel. This model allowed scientists at CSIRO to create a titanium heel that was then surgically implanted by surgeons at St. Vincent. Surgery took place in July and after 12 days in the hospital, Len Chandler returned home and is already walking with crutches. He states that it feels great and works perfect, something that is surprising for what is such a complicated prosthesis.
Bone prosthesis are hard to make because they must simulate all the processes that the bone would normally have. The heel must match with the shin coming down and the toes coming out, all of which have complex surfaces that are hard to match. The prosthesis must be polished and contoured just like the heel and without scans and 3d printing it would not be possible to create a prosthesis that fits perfectly.
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When it comes to learning how to do surgery, most doctors learn by watching other surgeons first. This creates a learning curve where new doctors are doing the surgery on their own for the first time and may make minor mistakes. This issue is especially prominent in areas of pediatric surgery where the tiny size of the patient makes observation during surgery very difficult. The use of cameras and other technology can make viewing easier but it does not take the place of actual hands on practice. To that end, simulated surgery is becoming increasing popular for training surgeons.
That is why Dr. Katherine Barsness is working with the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University to use 3d printers to create tiny, lifelike ribcages. By using these tiny, reusable ribcages and bovine tissue, surgeons can practice on a model that looks and feels like the real thing. Now they can practice surgery on real tissue that is confined within a lifelike ribcage. Ribcages can be created for any size of child as well which means surgeons can even practice on newborn ribcages in order to get practice with surgeries that they may only be able to see once or twice. Right now the ribcages can be created for as little as $200 but the initial cost of the machinery and the software is much more. It is hoped that when evidence arises of how useful simulated practice with ribcages is for training surgeons, grant money and interest in the tiny ribcages will grow.
Among the many advances in 3D printing is the ability to rebuild breast cancer tissue. Nano3D Biosciences working with Rainbow Coral Corp has made a breakthrough in the fight against breast cancer. With their NanoShuttle technology and a machine called the Bio-Assembler, they can create 3-dimensional breast tissue. By manipulating cells using magnetic nanoparticles they are able to quickly print cells in a tissue-like structure. This means that it will no longer be necessary to use animals and 2-dimensional cellular testing to develop new cancer treatments. Nano 3D Biosciences hopt to turn magnetic cell culture technology into the future of bioprinting human tissue. With the ability and the affordability of their current technology, that future may not be too far off.
The Bio-Assembler is able to work in a normal petri-dish or multiwall plate with any type of cell. The tissue can then be imaged and studied just like any other microtissue. This company can now create breast tumors within 24 hours that measure 1mm in diameter. They can even control the density and composition of that tumor and test the effectiveness of cancer treatments within that tumor. This process is faster, easier and more affordable than any other competing technology to grow breast tissue. All this means is that drug testing and the discovery of new treatments can proceed much faster and will hopefully lead to better treatments. This may also lead to better ways of testing and treating other types of cancer as well.
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In the underdeveloped world diseases ravage impoverished populations. Even worse is that basic medical equipment is too expensive. That means places where the latest technology is the most needed, it is sadly absent. Dr. Aydogan Ozcan is working to change all that by creating the hardware and the software needed to turn ordinary cell phones into powerful microscopes. The best part is that 3d printing makes the device affordable enough to send to third world countries to help stop the spread of HIV and perhaps even Ebola. Right now doctors working with HIV patients in the third world have to simply wait and hope that their treatments are working. Using a cellphone equipped with a 3d printed microscope they can quickly see how thier patient is responding to treatment.
This device can also help test for diseases and harmful bacteria. It will allow them to easily test water sources for E.Coli and other harmful bacteria before it becomes a health hazard. The software and the technology created by Dr. Ozcan are designed so that even someone without a degree in pathology can understand the images produced by the microscope. Currently this device is mainly used to combat HIV but now the focus has been turned toward Ebola. Dr. Ozcan is working to develop a way to test bodily fluids for Ebola using the device. They will be able to do it once a clear diagnostic signature is discovered for Ebola. Once that happens this simple to use and affordable device will be able to see who has Ebola and therefore be able to stop the epidemic that has killed thousands.
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For people who have suffered severe injury or the ravages of cancer to their eye, the need for a prothestic is great. While prosthetic eyes do not grant sight, they do allow for the patient to have a normal appearance and a complete facial structure. Going without an eye entirely can completely alter the structure of a person's face. This is particularly true for children whose facial structure will not develop properly without some sort of prosthetic eye in place. Typical prosthetic eyes can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000, which is not covered by insurance. Children outgrow their prosthetic eyes and have to have them replaced as they grow.
Enter the magic of 3D printing. Dr. Tse has created a process for 3d printing a prosthetic eye that is perfectly designed to fit the patient and can be done affordably and in a manner of hours. Typical prosthetics can take several weeks to produce. Dr. Tse and his team even created a propretiary nanoparticle mix which does not degrade like most facial prosthetics do. Even better is the fact that once scanned, the design for the eye can be saved, so patients can easily order a new prosthetic if needed. That way they will have the same design that they are already used to and comfortable with. This process will allow survivors of eye cancer to easily face the world without having to answer questions about missing eyes or disfigured faces.
Around the world the leading cause of death in children under five is pneumonia. In the U.S. doctors have the tools to easily diagnose and treat pneumonia. But in developing countries the tools are not easily available and therefore pneumonia in young children often goes undetected until it is too late. Luckily a new device is hoping to change that. A Massachusetts based company called Design that Matters is using 3d printing technology to create an affordable device for detecting pneumonia. The Pelican pocket pulse oximeter allows doctors to easily check the oxygen levels in infants, which could help save lives in developing countries.
Currently prototypes of the device are being made using 3d printers. 3d printing allows for the device to be made affordably, therefore developers can quickly and easily test out their designs in local hospitals. The current prototype has already been demonstrated in a hospital in Boston and the developers have taken what they’ve learned from demonstrations and discussions with doctors in order to further improve their prototype. The prototype was also taken to hospitals in Haiti to see how it would be used in developing countries. The Pelican pocket pulse oximeter shows how 3d printing can be used to easily create and use prototypes affordably. This means that the final product will be better and the price will still be affordable enough for it to be sent to developing countries all over the world.
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A 41 year old cancer patient in Bangalore found himself in need of a prosthetic jaw after he lost a portion of his upper jaw following surgery to remove a tumor. The loss of his jaw made it hard for him to speak and eat, and it was disfiguring as well. Doctors decided they needed to create a prosthetic for him so that he could live a normal life. However, they were faced with a problem, normally a prosthetic would be created by making an impression of the existing jaw. But radiation treatment had left the patient unable to open his mouth wider than two centimeters. This meant it was impossible for doctors to make an impression of his jaw to create the prosthetic.
This is where modern advances in 3d printing came to the rescue. Using CT scans a 3d model of the patient’s jaw was able to be created without the patient even having to open his mouth. Once the computer model was created, a 3d printer created a life size model of the patient’s upper and lower jaw. This model allowed doctors to take the impression that they could not take from the actual patient. A wax model was created, coated with acrylic and then teeth were added to complete the prosthetic jaw. The jaw was put into the patient and was as good a fit as doctors could have created with traditional methods. Now with the prosthetic jaw the patient is once again able to eat, speak and smile, improving his life in ways that would not be possible without 3d printing.
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Most people do not realize that footwear that is unbalanced or does not properly support their feet not only causes foot pain,but it can start a chain reaction that causes leg and back pain as well. Prior to using 3D printed insoles, those in need would either have to deal with mass produced insoles that would not be custom molded to their feet or use custom made insoles that are very expensive.
The SOLS system is quick, affordable and it is incredibly accurate. It is able to create an insole that will be molded to each person’s foot and designed to support whatever form of training or movement they plan on doing. This is the best way to protect the body from injury and reduce pain or stiffness from previous injuries. If you would like one of these custom soles yourself, you do not even have to visit Dr. Shoshany, SOLS systems has created a smart phone app that allows you to scan your foot yourself!
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The idea of using 3D printers to create prosthetic hands is not new. Using a 3D printer a prosthetic hand can be created for $50 which is pennies compared to the cost of a traditional prosthetic hand. However, these devices are only designed for people with missing hands or missing fingers. This led a student at Rochester Institute of Technology to create the Airy Arm.
The Airy Arm is designed for those who have their hands but do not have function in them. It is a sort of exoskeleton that goes around the outside of the arm and hand. By using movements of the elbow the exoskeleton is able to assist a hand that cannot move on its own to perform basic functions. The design uses no electricity and is very simple to use. In fact the design was created to help a child who suffered from paralysis of the wrist and hand. When the elbow bends a hinge pulls on cables attached to the fingers and forces the hand to close. When the elbow is straightened the strings on the outside of the fingers are pulled, causing the hand to open back up.
To create the Airy Arm the design is first printed flat using polylactic acid. The plastic mold is then dipped in hot water and molded around the person’s arm. This allows the arm to be perfectly molded to the individual so that it is comfortable enough for long term use. The device is currently just a prototype but already there has been plenty of positive response and interest. The hope is that it can be used for a wide range of individuals from paralysis and stroke victims to those suffering from arthritis.
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Infants born with congenital heart defects often need to undergo surgery quickly to repair the holes in their heart. But for a two week old at a hospital in New York, the surgery was going to be especially difficult. The child’s heart not only had holes that needed to be repaired, but the heart was structured in a very unusual way. Dr. Emile Bacha related the heart chambers to that of a maze. Typically in cases like this, doctors would have to open the chest and stop the heart in order to figure out how to proceed with the surgery. Doing this in a two week old baby is very dangerous and it makes surgery a slow process.
However, using information from MRI scans, Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital in New York City was able to 3d print a copy of the child’s heart. The three dimensional model of the child’s heart allowed surgeons to easily see where all the chambers of the heart were, as well as the holes. This meant that they could completely plan out the surgery before it even began. Now instead of needing multiple surgeries, Dr. Emile Bacha was able to completely repair the heart with just one surgery.
This technology has been used prior to help guide surgeons. A surgeon in Kentucky used the process to help perform heart surgery on a child patient of his own. He needed to remove the front of the heart and plan how to remove the obstruction. Any wrong move could cost the child their life, so knowing ahead of time all the intricate details of the heart is critical to success. Having the 3d models ensures success because they allow doctors to see and examine the heart in detail without any risk to the patient. This is especially true in infants with CHD because their bodies have a much harder time with surgery and it is much harder for doctors to examine the tiny hearts in detail.
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Today when a child is born without ears or with severe ear deformities they may have to undergo four or more surgeries to correct the problem. This not only means months waiting for the process to be completed, but painful recoveries and significant expense. However, researchers at the University College London are about to begin a trial in which they use a 3d printer to create new ears.
Early next year researchers will start a clinical trial on children in London and Mumbai to create new ears for each of the children. Already more than a dozen children in India are waiting for the trial to begin as the need for this type of reconstruction is high. Doctors have been creating ears manually by using cartilage from the rib cage. That process will no longer be necessary if this trial is successful.
image source: 3dprint.com
Using synthetic material, researchers are now able to print ears that can be used to replace ones that are missing or deformed in children. By using these ears the four or five invasive surgeries are reduced to just one.
The process works by first printing the ear and then placing the ear under the skin of the forearm. The scaffold of the ear created by the printer is designed in a way that allows for skin and blood vessels to grow into it. After four to eight weeks, the ear is removed and attached to head. Through this process researchers are able to create a new custom ear for their patient in mere days. This is revolutionary to the process that about 100 children a year in the U.K. must endure.
3D printer image source: www.giantfreakinrobot.com