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3D Printed Replica of Patient’s Brain Used to Plan a Complex Procedure

A neurosurgeon from Saskatoon in Canada has 3D printed a replica of a patient’s brain to help him plan a complex medical procedure.   Working with a team of engineers, Dr. Ivar Mendez created an accurate replica of the patient’s brain, which will allow him to practice surgery.   Dr. Mendez is the head of surgery at the University of Saskatchewan, and is already familiar with using advanced technologies to improve surgical results. He uses computers in the operating room, and has a medical engineer as part of his surgical team.   However, putting together a 3D brain was a more complicated task, but it would make it possible for him to practice working on some of the smallest components of a brain.   "You can imagine it as having a pea inside a sock or balloon," Mendez told CBC. "It is a complex system.”   What makes the model so valuable is that it’s an exact replica of the patient’s actual brain. If they have a tumor or other abnormality, Mendez and his team can create a replica that includes these unique features.

The patient in question was planned to undergo deep brain stimulation. Dr. Mendez needed to insert electrodes into the brain to help soothe overcharged neurons. He usually plans this kind of surgery using a computer model, but wasn’t successful in this case.  His idea was to position one electrode to affect two target neurons, but the computer model wasn’t capable of this kind of surgical planning. Human brains are particularly complex, which makes it difficult for computers to predict how the tissue will react to certain tools.   “I wanted a way to really, before I did a surgery, to know exactly how this was going to reach the brain and the targets I wanted,” Mendez told The Star Phoenix.   That’s why Mendez decided to team up with the school of engineering at U Saskatchewan, as well as radiology technicians and a neuropsychology specialist. The team worked together to make the MRI data understandable to the 3D printer.

The 3D model took 7 months of planning before a prototype was created. It was printed using a transparent material similar to rubber, that allows surgeons to see all the internal structures of the brain as well. Mendez said it also feels fairly similar to an actual human brain.  "I'm a neurosurgeon but I'm also interested in art. To me, this was an object of beauty,” he said.   Dr. Mendez believes the development of the technology will bring new opportunities for surgical practice.   "I envision that in the future we may be able to do procedures that are very difficult or impossible today," he said. "I feel that in the next 20, maybe 25 years, we will be able to print biological materials. We may be able to print organs."   Image Credits:
CBC
The Star Phoenix

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Supervet Discusses the Ethics of 3D Printing Technology for Veterinary Medicine

Professor Noel Fitzpatrick is one of the most prominent doctors of veterinary medicine in the UK. Featured on the show The Supervet on Channel 4, Fitzpatrick performs live-saving operations for people’s beloved pets, often making use of advanced technologies like 3D printing in his procedures.   Despite his skills, Fitzpatrick says whether or not to keep animals alive is a moral decision, more than a scientific assessment. He says that 3D printing and other technological advancements have made it so he can cure nearly any pet’s ailment, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he should.   Fitzpatrick told recently that he and other vets have an obligation to focus on the value their services bring to the pet’s future quality of life before deciding to subject them to invasive surgeries.   His veterinary practice located in Surrey has been among the first to use advanced medical techniques such as creating bionic legs for people’s pets.   He also said that no matter how much money he might receive by performing complex operations, he takes the time to consider which outcome will be best for the animal before agreeing to do it.

He said, “The bottom line now is that anything is possible, if you have a blood and nerve supply.”  “That means that we now have a line in the sand: not what is ‘possible’ but what is ‘right.’ In the past it was just the case of if it wasn't possible, you'd move to euthanasia.”   Dr. Fitzpatrick said ever since he began using 3D printed joints with living tissue as part of his procedures, he spends every day walking a moral tightrope.   At the same time, he thinks animals are very deserving of the most modern medical technologies, given the role they played in drug and medical testing for human medicine historically.   “They've given us all their lives for research, quite simply it's time to give something back.”   The Supervet is returning to TV with a new series featuring Dr. Fitzpatrick’s treatment of Jersey, the first three-legged cat to ever have a hip replacement.   Jersey lost a leg after being hit by a car. Fitzpatrick needed to create a new hip that moved in a unique way so she could balance on three legs alone.   He said, “It was a sweet cat. She had a slipping kneecap and really severe hip arthritis. Most cats can manage three legs but this one couldn’t."

Jersey’s medications weren’t helping her, which is why her owner wanted to pursue a compete hip replacement.  Dr. Fitzpatrick said, “It would have been easy to put her to sleep. Was that the right choice? The other options for pain control were suboptimal. But it worked.”   Jersey’s story is just one of many unique cases featured on The Supervet, often involving novel medical solutions with the help of 3D printing.   Image Credits: DailyMail, Supervet

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A College Student 3D-Prints His Own Braces

Twenty-three-year-old Amos Dudley is a digital design student in New Jersey. He went viral last week after coming up with a unique way to save some cash — by 3D printing his own braces.   Clear orthodontic aligners made from a mold of your own teeth can run thousands of dollars, but Dudley managed to create his own for less than $60 USD using a 3D printer.   Dudley had braces when he was younger but didn’t keep up with them, leaving him with a slightly crooked smile in his twenties. As a young student, he couldn’t afford to go to the orthodontist and get another custom pair, so he decided to use with the tools he had on hand. As a design student — that meant using state-of-the-art digital fabrication tools like a 3D printer.   Despite the fact that Dudley has no professional orthodontic experience whatsoever, the braces appear to be working. This image shows the difference after 16 weeks of wearing the custom braces:

Dudley came up with the idea to create his own braces after researching aligners online. He saw in close up images that they had the signs of 3D-printed layer striations, similar to the ones he’d seen on his own creations at school.  Dudley wrote on his blog, "What is to stop someone, who has access to a 3D printer, from making their own orthodontic aligners? Turns out, not much!”   He then dug into researching the orthodontic process, and took a mould of his teeth with alginate powder. He then filed it with PermaStone to set. Once he scanned the cast, he was able to use software to model how his teeth could progress in becoming straighter.   The whole process was actually pretty complex— Dudley had to identify his teeth as separate objects in the model and create a route for them to travel that avoided potential intersections with each other.

"Then it was just a matter of animating them into their correct positions," he writes. "I measured the total distance of travel, and divided it by the maximum recommended distance a tooth can travel per aligner. Each frame of animation was baked into a new STL model.”  He used a Stratasys Dimension 1200es 3D printer to do the job, available to him at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He printed out 12 models and created plastic aligners to go over top of them, made from special dental plastic he found on eBay.   He’s been wearing them for 16 weeks so far.
  "As far as I know, I’m the first person to have tried DIY-ing plastic aligners. They’re much more comfortable than braces, and fit my teeth quite well. I was pleased to find, when I put the first one on, that it only seemed to put any noticeable pressure on the teeth that I planned to move - a success!" he writes. "Most importantly, I feel like I can freely smile again.”   Since going viral, Dudley has been approached by many asking him to help make their orthodontic care more affordable, but he’s erring on the side of caution. He commented on his blog post, “Just want to clarify, again, I won't be making retainers/aligners for people (even if you offer money). I've thought about the possibility, and decided it's not a good idea for a large number of reasons. Sorry!”

Image Credits: Science Alert

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3D Printed Spine Model Aids in a Child’s Treatment

In a UK-first, surgeons at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital successfully used a 3D printed model of a spine to help complete an operation.   The procedure was the first time NHS doctors have ever used a 3D printed model in the operating room.   The model was used by surgeons on the West Derby hospital’s orthopedic team in their efforts to correct the curved back of an eight-year-old patient. The young girl from Whales suffers from kyphoscoliosis, a complicated congenital spinal problem.   The plastic model was made with the help of the patient’s CT scans, which were converted into a 3D printable format. The life-size replica was printed in a plastic so it could be sterilized, and then used in the operating room as a guide for the surgeons performing the operation.   An NHS First   This case is also the first time that a 3D printed model has been taken into the operating room to be used as a reference tool by NHS doctors. Jai Trivedi, Neil Davidson and Colin Bruce were the surgeons who performed the operation.

Trivedi, who was lead surgeon, said on Alder Hey’s blog, “There is no doubt the model made this complex procedure operation much safer as it allowed for accurate pre-operative planning and implementation at surgery. Sterile models that can be held during an operation should prove helpful for other surgeons.”  The model was made by the 3D printing firm 3D LifePrints. Their representative Henry Pinchbeck said, “We are delighted to be working with the talented surgical teams at Alder Hey who are leading the way in terms of adoption of innovative practices, such as 3D printing.”   A Beneficial Collaboration   3D LifePrints has been working closely with a number of Alder Hey doctors in orthopedics, cardio, craniofacial surgery, radiology and other areas to develop 3D models. Both parties believe the models can assist doctors with complex operations, enable easier communication between doctors and patients, and facilitate learning.   The successful surgery comes after a new scientific research center was recently opened next to Alder Hey, one component of £260m invested in future development.

The center boasts an innovation hub where doctors and scientists can work on building new healthcare technology, as well as facilities for developing and testing new medicines. The innovation service has the goal of harnessing less widely used technologies in healthcare (including 3D printing and bio-sensors) to develop strategies that improve health outcomes for surgery and critical care treatment.  This eight-year-old’s successful surgery is just another one of the many examples of how 3D printing can make medical treatment safer and more effective.   Image Credits:
Alderhey
Liverpool Echo

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Implanting A 3D-Printed Vertebrae: Another World-First Surgery Success Story

Every year, the number of world-first surgeries with 3D printed materials is on the rise.   And a doctor in Australia recently added another success story to the list after implanting a 3D-printed vertebrae into a man’s spine.   Last year, neurosurgeon Ralph Mobbs of the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney, met a patient suffering from chordoma, a difficult form of cancer.   The man was in his 60s, and the cancer had caused a tumor to grow in a very difficult area to access. Hobbs told Mashable Australia, "At the top of the neck, there are two highly-specialised vertebrae that are involved in the flexion and rotation of the head. This tumor had occupied those two vertebrae.”   The prospects weren’t looking good for the man. If left untreated, the tumor would eventually compress the spinal cord and brain stem, resulting in quadriplegia.   Very few surgeons had ever tried to remove this kind of tumor before, because its location made the surgery high risk. It is possible to reconstruct the vertebrae, but they have to use bone from another part of the body to do it. Getting the right fit is difficult, which is why Mobbs decided 3D-printing was the best option.  
"I saw this as a great opportunity," Mobbs explained. "[With 3D printing], the patient could be supplied with a custom-printed body part to achieve the goals of the surgery much better than we previously have had in our bag of tricks.”  Mobbs teamed up with Anatomics, an Australian medical device company, to construct the titanium implant. Anatomics also provided Mobbs with several models of the patient’s exact anatomy, which he used to practice the surgery on before attempting it.   Even with the ability to practice, Mobbs admitted to ABC news that the surgery was still very high-risk. But it was the only option for the patient that could result in a continued high quality of living.   The surgery is the first of its kind with this particular vertebrae. "To be able to get the printed implant that you know will fit perfectly because you've already done the operation on a model ... It was just a pure delight," he said. "It was as if someone had switched on a light and said 'crikey, if this isn't the future, well then I don't know what is’."

After a successful 15-hour surgery, the patient is now in recovery. Hobbs said he is doing well, but is suffering some effects of having such an invasive surgery performed through the mouth. "It has caused him some problems with his capacity to swallow, which he is gradually recovering," he said.  Mobbs is confident that the use of 3D printing in medicine will continue to grow. "There's no doubt this is the next big wave of medicine," he said. "For me, the holy grail of medicine is the manufacturing of bones, joints and organs on-demand to restore function and save lives."  
Image Credits: Engadget and Mashable

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New Report Shows Promising Growth for the 3D Printing Healthcare Market

The global 3D printing healthcare market is expected to have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 26.2% up through the year 2020, according to a new report, World 3D Printing Healthcare Market-Opportunities and Forecasts, just published by Allied Market Research.   The report found many different factors that are influencing market growth, including breakthrough technologies. Portable, solar-powered, multi-material, and full color 3D printers make the technology easy to use anywhere.   Patient Demand   Patient need is a strong factor driving growth: a rising number of people face issues related to old age, such as osteoporosis, which 3D printed technologies can address.   The report says that rising numbers of amputees, patients with auditory loss and dental problems will also fuel the need of external wearable devices, while the increased availability of biocompatible materials will help meet the demand. Customized 3D printed external wearable devices are widely considered to be better treatment options with optimized fitting and comfort.

External Wearable Devices   The application of external wearable devices are expected to contribute $2.3 billion to the 3D printing healthcare market by 2020.   There are a wide range of external wearable devices available thanks to 3D printing, such as prosthetic limbs.   Medical and surgical centers are also responsible for a considerable amount of growth, controlling roughly three-fourths of the global market.  
Financial Benefits   Another reason growth is expected to continue is that the use of 3D printing for medical practice will help reduce surgery times, anesthesia exposure and risks during operation, which ultimately reduces surgical costs.   3D printed organs are also offering affordable alternatives to animal testing in medicine and pharmaceutical research. Using the organs allows researchers to reduce the time of clinical trials and risks associated with drug testing.   At the same time, advanced 3D printers are often costly. Medical practices and pharmaceutical companies making use of 3D printers are also often impeded by a lack of regulatory frameworks and copyright issues related to 3D printing of patented products.

Emerging Markets  While North America accounts for 2/5 of the healthcare 3D printing market, new regions will emerge as influential by 2020. Asia-Pacific is expected to be the fastest growing market, with a CAGR of 29.7% for the forecast period.   The growth is mostly fueled by rising awareness and the development of start-up companies in the Asia-Pacific and LAMEA regions. The materials segment in particular will grow throughout North America, Europe, and other areas thanks to the availability of biocomaptible materials.   Other Key Findings   • The highest CAGR of the forecast period for 3D healthcare services is projected at 26.6%.
Polymers account for roughly half of the market revenue for materials. Ceramics are also projected as the fastest growing segment (a CAGR of 32.1%).
  • The electron beam melting technology segment is expected to grow at 29.6% CAGR from 2015 to 2020, higher than any other segment.   • Medical and surgical centers (accounting for 2/3 of the market) will continue to dominate throughout the forecast period.   • The fastest growing segment is expected to be engineering application, with a CAGR of 31.7% from 2015 to 2020.   Image Credits:   bizcommunity.com   Allied Market Research   LinkedIn

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3D Printing Organs for Use in Surgical Planning Shows How Medical 3D Printing is Changing Healthcare

3D printing organs is a small part of a technology that contributes to a wide range of industries. But no one can deny that the impact is greatest for the medical community, and the patients and families they’re helping.   Biomedical 3D printing is often associated with innovative new prosthetics and affordable custom implants, but that’s only half of the story.   3D printing organs has completely changed surgical planning for many doctors, with impressive results.

Doctors Find Their Optimal Surgical Approach with Medical 3D Printing
These days, doctors with the right 3D printer can take scans of an individual’s organs and print out customized, realistic models of their unique structure. The method brings forward a wealth of information that doctors can use to inform a optimal surgical approach based on each patient’s unique anatomy.   Here are a few of the many ways these organ models are helping with surgical planning:
Heart Models for Individualized Diagnosis
Researchers at MIT and Boston Children’s Hospital recently put together a system to create physical, 3D-printed models of a patient’s heart in just a few hours.   The models, based on MRI scans, can help surgeons prepare for the unique anatomy of each individual patient, allowing them to plan an ultra-personalized approach.

The new method really goes above and beyond standard surgical planning techniques. Creating printable models used to require researchers to manually indicate an organ’s boundaries on a series of cross-sections from the MRI data, which can take up to 10 hours to complete.  The new method, using algorithms and a 3D printer, gives doctors an accurate physical heart model in about an hour.
Defeating a Complex Aneurysm
For some, 3D printed organ models already mean the difference between an inoperable aneurysm and a successful life-saving surgery.   Last year, a 3D-printed model of a woman’s brain helped surgeons plan a life-saving surgery to correct an aneurysm.

Dr. Siddiqui, who was involved with the surgery, said, "There are some commonalities between all human beings, but at the end of the day our vascular tree is as different as our fingerprints.”  The model helped surgeons perfect a plan catered to the patient’s specific needs.   "While we were doing that mock procedure we realised that we had to change some of the tools we wanted to use, given her anatomy," said Dr Siddiqui. Avoiding Deadly Complications
For many surgeries, a surgeon won’t know what approach to take until they open the person up and look at the organ in question.   But 3D printed organs are a unique new tool that doctors are using to select an approach before surgery begins.   In one such case, the cardiology team at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Boston decided to create a full-sized heart model after digital imaging was ineffective at helping them plan a surgical approach.   Radiologist Mike Steigner had to only spend a few moments looking at the 3D-printed model to know that their original plan of performing a minimally invasive catheterization had to go out the window. The patient needed open heart surgery, and the team had avoided an unforeseeable complication thanks to the model.
3D Printing Organs for Procedural Practice
Practice does make perfect -- but for surgeons, this is a bit of a problem. The best model they can use to practice complex surgical procedures (short of a living human person) is a cadaver, and luckily, these are usually in short supply.   This is one important way that 3D printing organs is changing healthcare -- the models serve as the first life-like alternative to human organs that surgeons can use to plan and perfect their procedures.   And the applications are wide-reaching: 3D Printing Organs: The Biotexture Wet Model
A Japanese firm is producing a wide range of 3D printed organ models based on scans of real organs. The method, called the Biotexture Wet Model, has allowed researchers to create an ultra-realistic lung, complete with blood vessels and tumors.   "With the wet model, doctors can experience the softness of organs and see them bleed," said Tomohiro Kinoshita of Fasotec. "We aim to help doctors improve their skills with the models.”   Here’s a of doctors practicing with the model.  "I suppose that not only young, inexperienced doctors but also experienced doctors can perform a better operation if they can have a rehearsal first," said Dr. Maki Sugimoto.
Preparing to Treat a Life-Threatening Heart Condition
For sensitive surgeries, practice can mean the difference between life and death for a patient.
Last year, a 3D-printed model of a 5-year-old’s heart helped doctors practice a procedure to solve her life-threatening heart condition.

Mia Gonzalez was born with a rare heart malformation. Her vascular ring was wrapped around her trachea, making it difficult to breathe.  But doctors at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami 3D printed several models of her heart, so they could practice surgery with her unique heart structure. Their preparations led to a successful surgery, and managed to reduce operation time by about 2 hours. Perfecting Ear Reconstruction
In another use case, University of Washington researchers have been 3D-printing lifelike cartilage to practice reconstructing realistic ears. Before this, practice using a realistic material wasn’t possible -- the procedure involves using rib cartilage to create the new ear, which is in limited supply.   Surgeons are now able to perfect their ear reconstructions using as much 3D-printed cartilage as they need, so they can approached the precious rib cartilage with a practiced hand.
3D Bioprinting Makes More Surgeries for Children Possible
Perhaps none have benefitted more from biomedical 3D printing organs than children.   Because it’s so difficult to find ways to practice complex or novel procedures, doctors are hesitant to try them on young children. Operations like these can be incredibly risky, and it wouldn’t be worthwhile to endanger babies with their whole lives ahead of them, unless it was a life-or-death situation.   But 3D printing organs is changing all that, by giving doctors the models they need to confidently plan and practice these risky procedures.   Here are a few success stories:
An Infant Gets a New Face
A 2-year-old girl was born with a Tessier facial cleft -- her face could not fuse properly. The condition was not life threatening, but her parents sought help at Boston Children’s Hospital anyway.
A 3D-printed models of her skull appeared as the solution. After viewing her skull at different angles that an MRI could never capture, and practicing different cuts and manipulations, doctors there were able to justify the risk of performing a facial reconstruction on such a young girl. 2-Year-Old Receives First Adult Kidney Transplant
Just recently, a 2-year-old girl was the first child to receive an adult kidney transplant with the help of 3D printing organs.   Lucy suffered heart failure as a baby, which caused her kidneys to shut down. To avoid a lifetime on dialysis, surgeons performed a transplant using a kidney donated by her father, Chris.   Doctors at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust were confident they could perform the surgery successfully after 3D printing models of Lucy’s abdomen and Chris’ kidney to help them plan and practice.

Pankaj Chandak, a transplant registrar, said, "The most important benefit is to patient safety. The 3D printed models allow informative, hands-on planning, ahead of the surgery with replicas that are the next best thing to the actual organs themselves.”
Future Directions of 3D Printing Organs
As success stories with the help of 3D printed organ models continue to surface, it’s clear that traditional MRI or CT scans don’t carry nearly the same diagnostic and practical value as a real model that doctors can see and touch.  Still, you might say 3D printing is an underutilized technology in the medical field. Only around 75 US hospitals have a 3D printer for the purpose of printing model organs, of about 200 around the world.   Despite how few doctors have access to this technology, the models continue to help surgeons plan, prepare, and practice a wide range of operations with impressive results.   In coming years, it’s only expected that 3D printing organs will continue to change healthcare at an increasing pace.   Researchers around the world are working on ways to further optimize 3D printing organs -- MIT researchers are developing methods to make it faster, and Japanese scientists just came up with a way to make it even cheaper.   It would seem that the only thing stopping 3D printing organs from completely reinventing how doctors learn and approach surgeries is a little bit of time and a lot more 3D printers.   Image Credits:
MIT
BBC
Smithsonian
Belfast Telegraph
CNN

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Giving the Dog a Bone With the Help of 3D Printing

There’s no denying that 3D printing has had a major impact on the healthcare industry, but it’s not just people who are benefiting.   3D printing is already helping veterinarians make major improvements in the healthcare treatment of our furry friends.   3D Printing Is Improving Animal Diagnosis   3D printing began as an expensive technology that only the top industries could make use of, but it’s quickly evolved into an affordable tool for a wide variety of applications, and in some cases, a household commodity.   Veterinarians are among the many doctors making use of 3D printing for patient diagnosis. Evelyn Galban, a neurosurgeon of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine, is using 3D printing to help a canine patient with a malformed skull.   “It’s difficult to fully understand the malformation until we have it in our hands. That usually doesn’t happen until we’re in surgery,” she told Engineering.com.   But by examining a 3D printed model of the dog’s skull before surgery, she was able to create an informed plan of surgical action.

This is just one example of how 3D printing can help veterinarians understand the abnormalities they want to correct. Frank Verstraete of UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine said, “[T]o be able to hold a replica […] in your hand […] The advantages of that are tenfold compared to a screen image.”  Printing Bones for Dogs   3D printing is helping veterinarians improve pre-operative health procedures. Deirdre Quinn-Gotham of Tuskegee University’s School of Veterinary Medicine collaborated with the Department of Aerospace Science Engineering on a 3D printing project to create a surgical metal plate as well as an abnormal canine humerus.   They used an orthopedic surgical plate to create a small-scale model, which they printed using a biodegradable plastic filament.

The resulting 3D-printed models were highly accurate — appearing virtually identical to the original bone.  The method could be used to improve preoperative procedures and planning for veterinary surgery, as well as precision in certain procedures.   And since the models can be preserved for long periods of time, they could be used as educational tools or models for future surgeries.   A Closer Look at Bone Fractures   Quinn-Gotham’s study is only the latest of its kind. A researcher at Kansas State University has already converted CT scans of animal bone into 3D prints. These can also be used to develop treatments for animal bone fractures and deformities, as well as for educational purposes.

“The digital CT scan files are just a lot of small, chopped up pieces of the bone image,” Castinado said. “I use a 3-D modeling software to make all those pieces into a whole. I also have to take away all the extra fragments that are attached to the bone so that when it is 3-D printed, it will look like a bone.”  Compared to human medicine, veterinary scientists are only on the edge of unlocking the potential uses of 3D printing for their patients. But the possibilities already seem promising.   Image Credits:   Engineering.com
Horsetak.co.nz

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Scientists 3D Print Liver Tissue for Drug Screening

Engineers at the University of California, San Diego led a team in developing life-like liver tissue with the help of 3D printing.   The model closely approximates a real human liver’s structure and function, and could be applied to drug screening and disease modeling research.   The study was published in the February 8th edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.   The researchers hope that the new liver will help save pharmaceutical companies time and resources, making the production of new drugs more affordable. Pharmaceutical companies will be able to run pilot studies for new treatments without waiting for results from human or animal trials.   "It typically takes about 12 years and $1.8 billion to produce one FDA-approved drug," said Shaochen Chen, NanoEngineering professor at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. "That's because over 90 percent of drugs don't pass animal tests or human clinical trials. We've made a tool that pharmaceutical companies could use to do pilot studies on their new drugs, and they won't have to wait until animal or human trials to test a drug's safety and efficacy on patients. This would let them focus on the most promising drug candidates earlier on in the process.”   Shaochen Chen is co-author of the study with Shu Chien, a professor of medicine and Bioengineering, and director of the Institute of Engineering in Medicine at UC San Diego.

The model is able to reproduce the liver’s complex system of delivering blood supply, making it a unique specimen for scientists interested in understanding the combined effect of metabolic and circulation functions on health and disease.  "The liver is unique in that it receives a dual blood supply with different pressures and chemical constituents. Our model has the potential of reproducing this intricate blood supply system, thus providing unprecedented understanding of the complex coupling between circulation and metabolic functions of the liver in health and disease," said Chien.   The artificial liver tissue was created using a novel bioprinting method that Chen’s laboratory developed. The entire structure is only 200 micrometers thick, and can be created in seconds. Other methods take hours. After printing, the structure was cultured for 20 days in vitro.   After culturing, the researchers performed various tests to see how well the tissue performed liver functions, such as albumin secretion and urea production.

The 3D-printed tissue is not the first model of its kind, but it was able to maintain functionality longer than other options. It also had a large amount of an important enzyme that scientists think affects the metabolism of different drugs.  The scientists hope that the new liver model can be used to reproduce and better understand various diseases, including cancer, cirrhosis, hepatitis, and others.   Chen said in the paper, “I think that this will serve as a great drug screening tool for pharmaceutical companies and that our 3D bioprinting technology opens the door for patient-specific organ printing in the future.”   Image Credits:
RDMag
American Bazaar Online
Tech Times

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3D Printing is Helping Scientists Unfold the Mysteries of the Human Brain

Harvard researchers have used 3D printing to create a replica of the human brain.   Despite being arguably the most important organ in the human body, scientists still understand very little about the brain’s structure and how it works. Hypotheses abound, but there have been few opportunities to explore them until now.   The Harvard researchers 3D-printed a gel brain to watch it grow, helping them make new inferences about how it develops its signature folds.   The study could help solve the mystery behind the structure of gray matter and help explain psychological disorders caused by under or overfolding of the brain.   Not all brains found in nature have the same distinctive folds as the human brain does. Many smaller species, such as rats, have completely smooth brains.   In a commentary about the study, Ellen Kuhl of Stanford University said the researchers "demonstrated that physical forces — not just biochemical processes alone — play a critical role in neurodevelopment. Their findings could have far-reaching clinical consequences for diagnosing, treating and preventing a wide variety of neurological disorders.”     Humans don’t start developing the folds in the womb until roughly 23 weeks of gestation. The folds also continue to develop after they’re born. We do know that there are some benefits to having a folded structure. For example, the folds allow for greater connectivity across the gray matter (surface layer of the brain).   Kuhn said, “Each cortical neuron is connected to 7,000 other neurons, resulting in 0.15 quadrillion connections and more than 150,000 km of nerve fibres.”

It’s believed that the unique nature of human brain gyrification, the scientific term for the brain’s growth, is that it’s a response to the need to maximize the amount of cortical neurons in a small space. The Harvard researchers put this to the test with their 3D printed growing brain, and concluded that the folds are the result of physical growth processes instead of biological need.  The 3D printed model received no chemical directives to develop folds (like the hypothesis predicts)— instead, it developed folds naturally in response to mechanical compression forces during growth.

The benefit for the placement of the cortical neurons is only a response to the process of growth, not an evolutionary mechanism in and of itself.  The researchers ran their simulation by creating a 3D printed model based on MRI data, with several layers of soft gel material. The layers were designed to expand when placed in a solvent, simulating the growth of the brain’s gyro and sulci (folds). The results were published recently in Nature Physics.   The experiment is a first step in opening new lines of research that can benefit doctors and neuroscientists in their efforts to understand the brain and its disorders. And while the 3D-printed gel brain is a far cry from a true physical model, it can still tell us a lot. Understanding the intricacies of brain growth may help scientists identify physical marketers linked to certain diseases, such as autism, schizophrenia or Alzheimers.   Image source:
3Dprint.com

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3D Printed Pills are Making Medicine More Personalized

3D printing has made a major impact on the medical industry in a wide variety of ways — custom prosthetics, surgical implants, bioprinted tissue, and other areas.   3D printed pills are one of the newest advancements, already in development, which could help treat minor and major medical conditions, including epilepsy and chronic pain.   Of course, non-3D printed medications are already available for most major ailments. But what makes 3D printed pills such a great advancement is that they can be customized to individual patient needs, resulting in a medicine that is more effective and cheaper than its traditionally-manufactured counterparts.   Researchers have already managed to 3D print unique powder-based and liquid-based shapes for pills to make it easier for children to swallow them. Aprecia, a New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company, also became the first company get FDA approval for a drug made by 3D printing. The medication is made to treat seizures in epileptic patients, and is designed to be more porous and potent that traditionally manufactured versions of the drug. Aprecia’s method creates pills that can disintegrate in under 10 seconds, making it easier for the body to absorb the drug.

Recent research out of Wake Forest University is also making innovative strides to advance 3D printed pills. They created a computer algorithm that could calculate dosages based on a patient’s biological and clinical parameters and design a pill suited for their unique needs. By creating such personalized pills, the algorithm can help increase drug accuracy and effectiveness, while also reducing negative side effects.   Many factors can affect a drug’s effectiveness with individual patients, including their weight, ethnic background, and organ functionality. No traditionally-produced medications take these factors into account, an approach that can sometimes cause more harm than good for patients.   The research from Wake Forest focused on tapping into these issues to develop highly personalized medicines. Known as “pharmacogenetics,” the research method hopes to enable the development of personalized drugs based on DNA information and other factors.

Min Pu, a professor of internal medicine, led the research team. She gave a presentation about the research to the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions (AHASS) in November, saying, “Our study uses the volume-concentration method to generate 3D-printed pills. What's different from current pharmaceutical industrials is that we use a computer algorithm to design and calculate dosages according to patients' biological and clinical parameters instead of using pre-determined dosages. Therefore, we can instantly create personalized pills. These personalized pills are then converted to 3D printable files and the pills can then be accurately printed using a 3D printer.”  Future scientific research into personalizing pills with 3D printing is likely on the horizon. Meanwhile, Aprecia Pharmaceuticals just announced it has received $35 million in investment funding to commercialize their drug, which we can expect will only serve to accelerate the development of 3D-printed pills by other pharmaceutical companies in the years to come.       Image Credits:
Epilepsy Society
3Ders.org

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Derby The Dog Gets A 3D-Printed Leg Upgrade

By this point, Derby is a well known character in the 3D-printing world. He became famous after getting a pair of 3D-printed legs last years so he could walk straight and sit like a regular dog. But soon it became time to design him a new pair.   3D Systems, a South Carolina-based company, created his first pair, and designed them to be close to the ground so Derby could get used to them without hurting himself falling down. Their initial plans were to upgrade him to a taller version of the original ones, but the plan didn’t work out as hoped.   They decided to design him a better option. Tara Anderson, the director of product management at 3D Systems, said the company realized that it would be better if Derby had prosthetics that had a little flexibility like a real knee would.

The company decided to use selective laser sintering (SLS) to create Derby’s new legs, instead of the multisite 3D printing technology they used the first time. SLS uses heat to fuse together small particles of material that constitute a 3D object. The manufacturing process resulted in two new prosthetics that had more bounce, but were also harder and more durable.   The legs have a figure-eight helical infinity design which perfectly fits his physical requirements. Derby can now move and play like other dogs, as if he never missed his front legs. He’s already started to run a little.   Derby, a husky dog, was born with a deformity — his front legs never fully developed. His first owners didn’t think they could provide him with the care he needed, so he was given to a dog rescue, Peace and Paws, in New Hampshire. Here Derby was lucky enough to catch the attention of Tara Anderson of 3D Systems, who decided to help him.   Before receiving prosthetics, Derby had to get by with crawling on his rear legs. He spent most of his time kneeling on his chest, which regularly got scratched and bruised.   With Derby’s new legs, he’s now completely self-sufficient (as much as a pet dog can be). His owner, Sherry Portanova, is very pleased.

“He feels like a real dog,” she said. “He’s been walking and even sitting, which he has never been able to do.”   Just another story of an amazing technology that can create made-to-scale limbs and other body parts to change the lives of people and animals alike.  
Image Credits:
Engadget
I4U
The Mirror

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3D-Printed Nose Changes a Teenager’s Life

Dallan Jennet, a 14-year-old boy, has become the first person to receive a 3D printed nose transplant in the US.   Human nose reconstruction is a fairly common practice, but this is the first time US doctors were able to produce the body part in a way that made it fully functional.   Jennet, who is from the Marshall Islands, suffered a face disfiguration after falling from a power line when he was 9 years old. Earlier this year he received several surgeries to improve his sense of taste and smell at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Siani, in New York City.   Tal Dagan, an associate adjunct surgeon on the project, said in a Mount Sinai blog post, "The procedure is akin to a 'nose transplant' in that we were able to replace the nose with a functional implant.”   "This procedure may be a breakthrough in facial reconstruction because the patient will never have to deal with the standard issues of transplantation, such as tissue rejection or a lifetime of immunosuppressive therapies," he said.   Jennet flew to the US for his most recent therapies, though he underwent his first procedure in the Marshall Islands in early 2015. Doctors implanted expanders under the skin of his nose that remained, to prepare space for the 3D printed nose.

The surgeries were made possible by Benicia, a Canvasback Missions Inc. nonprofit based in California. The organization is known for making health care and health education available in the Pacific Islands. They paid for Jennet’s medical expenses, and for him and his mother to travel to New York for surgeries.  The surgeries conducted in the US were made possible when Dagan and Dr Grigoriy Mashkevich, assistant professor of Otolaryngology, Division of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Mount Sinai, in collaboration with Oxford Performance Materials Inc, a 3D printing company based in Windsor, Connecticut.   They were able to develop a unique 3D nose graft for Jennet based on the structure of his family’s noses.   The first operation in New York took 16-hours to complete, during which the doctors used a laser-based technology to perform skin analysis.   The next step involved harvesting tissues and blood vessels from Jennet’s thigh as well as reducing scar tissue before inserting the graft and reconstructed skin with the 3D implant. Four additional surgeries followed, and Jennet had several follow-up appointments throughout June and October.   All the surgeries resulted in a successful transplant. The doctors say he won’t require more reconstructive procedures in the future — the 3D-printed implant will grow as he grows.   “We believe that this procedure will allow the patient to live a happy and productive life,” said Dr. Mashkevich. “We also hope that this approach will be a viable option for others with severe facial deformities who require reconstructive surgery.”
  Image Credits: Geek

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New 3D Printed Tool Changes the Game for ACL Reconstruction

ACL injuries are a big concern for high performance athletes — in the NFL alone, there are an average of 53 ACL injuries per year. In some cases, the injury requires surgical treatment and a lot of time off. For more severe injuries, it’s career-ending.   But the ultimate consequences of injuries of the anterior cruciate ligaments is probably about to change, with the help of a new 3D printed surgical device that helps surgeons better reconstruct partial or full ACL tears and reduce the chances of re-tearing.   The biocompatible surgical device belongs to DanaMed™ Inc. and Pathfinder™ and was created by Stratasys Direct Manufacturing, an additive manufacturing service. Stratasys used Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) technology to build the tool.   The Pathfinder System
  “Pathfinder illustrates how 3D printing is uniquely capable of enabling breakthroughs in medical technology that otherwise would not be possible,” said John Self, project engineer at Stratasys Direct Manufacturing, in a press release. “And by offering DanaMed 97 percent cost savings over conventional manufacturing methods, 3D printing has demonstrated its business value in bringing complex, high-quality parts to market.”   The Pathfinder System was developed by Dr. Dana Piasecki, an orthopedic surgeon at Orthhcarolina Sports Medicine. After experimenting with different surgical strategies that could optimize graft positioning, he developed the Pathfinder ACL Guide and Guide Pins. His research found that using a tool shaped similarly to the knee was the most effective.   Dr. Piasecki and DanaMed Inc. worked to perfect the design with Fused Deposition Modeling. Stratasys Direct Manufacturing, using DMLS, was able to manufacture the tool affordably, and made it possible to change the design on the fly.   An Ideal Tool

The Pathfinder tool is made with Inconel 718 material, which was optimal for mechanical requirements, biocompatability, oil resistance, and other factors. The tool underwent a series of tests before receiving registration from the FDA as a Class 1 Medical Device.  While news about the technology is just now breaking in the biomedical 3D printing community, the device is already on the market and can be used in orthopedic surgery.   For procedures involving anchoring grafts in the ACL, the Pathfinder has an impressive 95 percent success rate, meaning that it may be the perfect tool to change how successful ACL surgeries become in the long run. The technique also allows the repaired ACL to undergo the same amount of strain as a natural ACL. Other techniques are not only more complicated surgically, but increase the risk for complications and reinjury.   The Pathfinder tool is just one example of a metal part manufactured with 3D printing. Many companies have been leveraging the technology, to the point where additive metal usage is expected to almost double in the next 3 years in the US alone. As a result, Stsratasys Direct Manufacturing has made major increases in its additive metals capacity in recent months.   You can read more about DanaMed’s 3D printing projects here, and Stratasys Direct Manufacturing’s metal capabilities here.   Image Credits: Business Wire

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Doctors May Soon 3D Print Micro Organs

For many, 3D printers seem like a fun tool to print plastic trinkets. But thanks to the unique properties of embryonic stem cells, the machines may one day be used by doctors to print micro-organs to save the lives of transplant patients.   Embryonic stem cellls come from human embryos, and have the unique ability to develop into any type of cell the body needs, including brain tissue, organ cells, or bones. That’s why they have long been a research focus for regenerative medicine aimed at repairing damaged tissues and organs in the human body.   The most common way to experiement with the cells is called differentiation, which involves dosing them with biological cues that encourage them to develop into certain types of tissues. In the beginning, the cells create spherical masses (termed embryoid bodies), similar in nature to the process of early embryo development.

Researchers have realized that a 3D environment, as opposed to a petri dish, is a much more suitable way to grow embryonic stem cells. The 3D environment creates the closest facsimile of natural cell development in the human body.   The first 3D printer designed for embryonic stem cells was developed by Organovo, and used to successfully print cells by researchers at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. The printer works in a strikingly similar way to regular printers, by laying down layers of material. The only difference is that the 3D printer can lay layers on top of each other to create objects.   Up until this point, the 3D printers for embryonic stem cells were only able to create simple arrays or mounds of cells. But that’s all changed, as now researchers can create embryoid bodies with more structure and control.   Wei Sun, a co-author on the study and professor of mechanical engineering at Tsinghua University in Beijing and Drexel University in Philadelphia, told Live Science, "We are able to apply a 3D-printing method to grow embryoid bodies in a controlled manner to produce highly uniform blocks of embryonic stem cells."   That’s the extent of the research so far, but the advancement makes building complex tissues possible, including micro-organs.   The study offered promising results, with 90% of the cells surviving the process of printing. After printing, the cells developed into embryoid bodies and began generating healthy proteins. The cells were cultured in a hydrogel scaffold, which could be dissolved to harvest the embryoid bodies if needed.

The researchers expect that their method allows for the most control over embryoid size and structure.   Sun said, "The grown embryoid body is uniform and homogenous, and serves as [a] much better starting point for further tissue growth. It was really exciting to see that we could grow embryoid bodies in such a controlled manner."   Rui Yao, another co-author on the study and assistant professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing, said, "Our next step is to find out more about how we can vary the size of the embryoid body by changing the printing and structural parameters, and how varying the embryoid body size leads to 'manufacture' of different cell types.”   Image Credits: Live Science

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New Research Solves the Problem of 3D Printing Soft Body Parts

3D printing has been used for years to create prosthetics, but the technology has faced challenges in printing soft tissues. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a solution that now makes soft tissue printing a possibility for medical use.   A Supportive Goo   Led by biomedical engineer Adam Feinberg, the team developed a supporting bath of goo with a similar consistency to mayonnaise, which allows them to 3D print soft biological structures without risking them collapsing under their own weight.   After they are printed, the researchers melt away the goo once the structures become stiff enough to support themselves.   The team printed sample structures such as model brains and hearts. According to Anthony Atala, a tissue engineer and director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, these models are the most complex of any body parts created so far. “I think it's a very nice strategy that will open up even more avenues for future development and research,” he said.
  Feinberg and his team solved the problem with the goo made of blended collagen. The approach is called freeform reversible embedding of suspended hydrogels (FRESH). The goo’s melting point is much lower than that of the objects being constructed, making it easy to melt it away without damaging the structures.   A New Direction in Biomedical 3D Printing   The majority of research on biomedical applications for 3D printing were geared towards prosthetics, such as titanium plates for missing skull pieces or tracheal splints for collapsed airways. Researchers at several institutions have been experimenting with creating softer tissues, using watery gels of sugars or proteins. These matrices would be the support structure for live cells that are either printed or added after.   The matrix is formed by pushing molecules through a printer nozzle and cross-linking them to gels using chemicals or other stimuli. Usually, the resultant mixture looses form or collapses before it has the chance to harden into the required shape of the desired organ.   The team’s sample structures were modeled from resonance imaging and microscopy images. They printed a human brain and the heart of a baby chicken, both scaled to about the size of a quarter. They also produced a series of branching arteries.   Jonathan Butcher, a fellow biomedical engineer at Cornell University, thought the artery tree was quite impressive. “I don't know if we can make that geometry with our approach,” Butcher said. “The material complexity that they've been able to fabricate is really stunning.”

The Next Steps  In future experiments, the team will need to add live cells to the gel matrix created by the FRESH method. They are already working on creating a functioning heart muscle with live cells. Next, they hope to create heart muscle patches to repair heart defects.   The artificial tissues will be valuable for researchers to test new drugs and monitor disease processes. In the future, the artificial heart muscle might be able to actually pump the blood of a living person.   Image Credits:
Carnegie Mellon

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Northeastern’s New Method to 3D Print Medical Devices Tailored To Babies

Randall Erb and colleagues from Northeastern’s Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering have pioneered a new 3D printing method to make patient-specific medical devices.   The method, which appeared in the October 23rd issue of Nature Communications, uses magnetic fields to shape composite materials in a 3D printer. The printer mixes plastics and ceramics into patient-specific products, which could mean an end to ill-fitting medical equipment for infants.   A Prevalent Problem   In the United States alone, almost 500,000 babies are born premature every year. Many people are familiar with photos of premature infants as the struggle to grow and survive in the neonatal care units. Some of the tiny infants weigh hardly more than a pound, and are covered with plastic tubes and catheters that deliver the vital nutrients, fluid, oxygen and medications they need to survive.   Despite the large number of premature babies, modern catheters still only come in standard shapes and sizes, making them ill-suited for these tiny babies.

An Innovative Solution  “With neonatal care, each baby is a dif­ferent size, each baby has a dif­ferent set of prob­lems,” Erb to Northeastern News. “If you can print a catheter whose geom­etry is spe­cific to the indi­vidual patient, you can insert it up to a cer­tain crit­ical spot, you can avoid punc­turing veins, and you can expe­dite delivery of the contents.”   The use of composite materials in 3D printing is not new, but this method is novel because it allows the researchers to take control of the arrangement of the ceramic fibers. This ability allows them to determine the mechanical properties of the material.   Such control is critically important when manufacturing materials with complicated architectures, which is definitely the case with small, custom biomedical devices. When crafting a patient-specific device, all components must be reinforced with ceramic fibers to ensure durability. The fibers must fill every corner, curve and hole in the device.   “I believe our research is opening a new frontier in materials-science research,” said Joshua Martin, a PhD student on the project.

A Lesson from Nature   “We are fol­lowing nature’s lead,” said Martin, “by taking really simple building blocks but orga­nizing them in a fashion that results in really impres­sive mechan­ical prop­er­ties.”   The new method in many ways mimics the formation of other natural composites such as bones or trees. The human bone contains calcium phosphate fibers that appear around the holes for blood vessels, enabling the bone’s strength and durability.   “These are the sorts of archi­tec­tures that we are now pro­ducing syn­thet­i­cally,” said Erb. “Another of our goals is to use cal­cium phos­phate fibers and bio­com­pat­ible plas­tics to design sur­gical implants.”   The research received one of the National Institutes of Health’s Small Business Technology Transfer grants to work on developing neonatal catheters.   Photo Credits: Northeastern University and 3Ders.org

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3D Printed Teeth: A New Way to Fight Oral Bacteria

Researchers at the University of Groningen in Holland are developing 3D-printed teeth from an antimicrobial plastic. The novel innovation may change dentistry forever, as it can kill tooth decaying bacteria on contact.   A Prevalent Condition   Ninety one percent of adults ages 20 to 64 have experienced some amount of tooth decay, according to the American Dental Association. For 27%, it goes untreated.   Severe tooth decay can also be quite costly to fix. A single tooth implant can run between $3,000 to $4,000, while a complete set costs between $20,000 and $45,000. Most insurance companies will only cover about 10% of the associated costs.   These statistics demonstrate how tooth decay is one of the most prevalent medical conditions in the US today.   A Novel Solution   The 3D printed teeth could solve a lot of these problems, as they would remain white and pristine regardless of care.   Andreas Hermann from the University of Groningen told New Scientist, “The material can kill bacteria on contact, but on the other hand it’s not harmful to human cells.”   The teeth will be made of antimicrobial quaternary ammonium salts integrated into dental resin polymers. When positively charged, the salts can cause bacterial membranes to burst and die.   The researchers created the blend with a 3D printer and hardened it with ultraviolet light. They printed sample materials including replacement teeth and braces.

As part of the research, they coated the objects with saliva and Streptococcus mutans for 6 days. The bacteria is common in the oral cavity and enables tooth decay.   Sample materials that had the positively charged salts killed more than 99% of bacteria. Materials without the salts killed less than 1%   Researchers published the plans in Advanced Functional Materials.   Future Directions   It will be a while before the 3D printed teeth will be made available to the public, but it’s a promising technology that many will look forward to.   The next step in the research process will test the durability of the tooth plastic for dental use, and its compatibility with toothpaste. It is possible that complications could arise with the technology because of dental wear-and-tear and toothpaste chemicals. As with any implanted material, there is also a possibility that the body will reject it.

As for the antibacterial component, it can likely be applied to a wide range of additional uses.   The researchers wrote, ”The approach to developing 3-D printable antimicrobial polymers can easily be transferred to other nonmedical application areas, such as food packaging, water purification, or even toys for children.”  
Photo Credits:   Mic, Science Alert, R&D

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3D Printed Posterior Spine Truss System First to Be Marketed in US

4Web Medical is the first company to get FDA clearance for an additively manufactured spine implant in the US. The company announced at the North American Spine Society annual meeting in Chicago on Wednesday that they plan to launch their Posterior Spine Truss System in the US market.   An Innovative Advancement   Considered to be the leader in the 3D printed implant market, 4Web Medical has 3D printed around 6000 truss implants that have been used in surgeries throughout the world. The Posterior Spine Truss System is the company’s latest development in body fusion devices. The system can be used in many posterior spine procedures, such as PLIF, TLIF and Oblique approaches.   "The Posterior Spine Truss System represents a significant advancement in treatment options for my lumbar spine patients,” said Chief of Orthopedic Spine Surgery at Georgetown University Hospital, S. Babak Kalantar, M.D. "The expansion of 4WEB's novel truss implant technology into posterior spine procedures will allow me to utilise an implant with proven clinical benefits across the majority of spine surgeries that I perform.”

The Posterior Spine Truss System includes as selection of 150 implants, which surgeons can select from to find the right fit for their patient. The system is a step above what other orthopaedic companies are offering in terms if 3D printed manufacturing. Joseph O’Brien, M.D., the Medical Director of Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery at George Washington University Hospital explained that most companies are using the new technology to produce the same annualr designs that have been available for years.  “4WEB is unique in that they are the only company in the spine implant market to maximise the opportunity that 3D printing affords by producing truss designs with distinct structural mechanics that have considerable potential to accelerate healing for my patients. These patented structures were not even possible to manufacture at this scale until only a few years ago.”   Optimal Functionality   The spinal implants designed by 4WEB offer novel a functionality that optimizes durability and enhancing the lives of patients who receive them. This is largely due to their biconvex web structure. This design allows the implants to distribute weight over a larger surface area in contact with the spine. This will greatly reduce instances of sinking or caving of the bone.

The web structure of the spinal implants are actually where 4WEB Medical gets its name. The company utilized foundational research from topological dimension theory to develop the web structure, and brought it to life with the 3D printer.  4WEB provides implant solutions for Orthopedic and Neuro surgeons, including the Cervical Spine Truss System, the Posterior Spine Struss System, the Osteotomy Truss System and the ALIF Spine Truss System. Current research will bring forth new innovations in implant designs for the knee and hip, as well as trauma and patient specific solutions.   Photo Credits: 4WEB Medical

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3D Printing Helped Solve 5-Year Old’s Life-Threatening Heart Condition

A 3D printed heart model allowed doctors to perfect a life-saving surgery for 5-year-old Mia Gonzalez. Mia was born with a double aortic arch, a rare heart malformation where a vascular ring wraps around the trachea or esophagus, which restricts airflow. The condition required a complex operation to fix, but surgeons at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami were able to use a 3D printed model of Mia’s heart to plan the surgery and practice using Mia’s specific heart structure.   A Practiced Procedure   They printed two model of her heart, a flexible grey version and a clear, rigid one. Examining the clear 3D printed model of Mia’s heart allowed doctors to determine what the best treatment would be for the patient. The grey model then helped doctors successfully complete the complicated surgery. The clear plan they developed shorted the operation by about two hours.   “With a 3D printed model, we were able to figure out which part of her arch should be divided to achieve the best physiological result,” said Dr. Redmond Burke, Director of Pediatric Cardiovascular Surgery at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.   “The challenge is a surgical one, how do you divide this double aortic arch and save her life without hurting her,” said Dr. Burke. “By making a 3D model of her very complex aortic arch vessels, we were able to further visualize which part of her arch should be divided to achieve the best physiological result. It’s very powerful when you show a family ‘this is your baby’s heart and this is how I’m going to repair it.’”

A Method on the Rise  Surgeons at the hospital have begun using Stsratasys 3D Printers as tools to help improve patient outcomes by 3D printing lifelike organ models. Burke and his colleagues created heart models for about 25 children with congenital heart defects so far. In the past, surgeries like this on children might not have been worth the risk.   “Once patient scan data from MR or CT imaging is fed into the Stratasys 3D Printer, doctors can create a model with all its intricacies, specific features and fine detail. This significantly enhances surgical preparedness, reduces complications and decreases operating time,” said Scott Rader, GM of Medical Solutions at Stratasys.   3D printers have been used to make prototypes for surgical tools for more than twenty years, but only recently have been used to print organ models. Roughly 75 hospitals throughout the US have a printer for this purpose, of about 200 around the world. 3D printed simulated organs have now been used by surgeons to prepare for a wide range of difficult operations, such as correcting a severe cleft palate or removing a brain tumor.  
Photo Credits: CNN

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Researchers Develop 3D-Printing Technique to Make Realistic Ears

An otolaryngology resident and bioengeneering student at the University of Washington have teamed up to create a low-cost cartilage model for surgical practice using 3D printing. The innovation will allow surgeons to perfect the construction of realistic ears.   Surgeons approach the task of fixing a missing or underdeveloped ear by harvesting rib cartilage from the child and carving it into the shape of an ear. The rib cartilage is limited, and surgeons try to harvest as little as possible.

Because of the nature of the procedure, surgical residents are unable to practice the procedure on authentic material. Normally, surgical residents use a bar of soap, a carrot or an apple to practice complicated procedures like making a new ear for children. Some are able to use cadaver or pig rib cartilage as a substitute, but they don’t match the size or consistency of children's.  This new method of 3D printing cartilage is a low cost alternative that offers the most authentic model to practice on to date.   Working in the UW BioRobotics Lab under electrical engineering professor Blake Hannaford, the researchers described the development in an abstract at the American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery conference held in Dallas this week.

“It’s a huge advantage over what we’re using today,” said Angelique Berens, a UW School of Medicine otolaryngology — head and neck surgery resident, who was lead author on the abstract. “You literally take a bar of Lever 2000 while the attending is operating and you carve ear cartilage. It does teach you how to get the shape right, but the properties are not super accurate — you can’t bend it, and sewing it is not very lifelike.”  The study included three seasoned surgeons who practiced carving, bending and suturing with the researchers’ silicone models. The models were created with a 3D printed mold and a CT scan of an 8-year-old with a malformed ear. The researchers compared the models for firmness, feel and suturing compared to other practice materials. All three surgeons preferred the UW models.   A lack of realistic training models limits many surgeons, making it difficult for them to become comfortable executing delicate and complicated procedures, said Kathleen Sie, a UW Medicine professor of otolaryngology and director of head and neck surgery at the Childhood Communication Center at Seattle.

Because so few surgeons are properly trained, children in need of ear reconstruction must wait 6 to 12 months at Seattle Children’s Hospital.  “It’s a surgery that more people could do, but this is often the single biggest roadblock,” said Sie. “They’re hesitant to start because they’ve never carved an ear before. As many potatoes and apples as I’ve carved, it’s still not the same.”   The 3D printed material is also advantageous because it’s printed from a CT scan, so it will mimic the unique anatomy of the patient. Now, even experienced surgeons will have the opportunity to practice the complicated procedures on material specific to the patient.   Photos via University of Washington

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MIT Researchers Use MRI Scans to 3D Print Heart Models in Hours

Researchers at MIT and Boston Children’s Hospital have created a method to use MRI scans and print physical models of an organ in only a few hours. While 3D printing organ models is not a new technology, the speed of the new method means that surgeons can use the models to plan delicate and time-sensitive surgeries.   The system involves a unique computer algorithm that increases the precision of MRI scans by 10. MIT researchers partnered with Boston Children’s Hospital physicist Medhi Moghari, who created the modeling system, and Andrew Powell, a cardiologist who oversaw clinical work for the project. The team successfully printed a heart model from an MRI, using 10 different patients to test how effective the 3D printed models were.

The team hopes that the models can be used for educational purposes, diagnosing conditions, and helping doctors prepare for surgeries.  “Our collaborators are convinced that this will make a difference,” said leader of the project Polina Golland, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT. “The phrase I heard is that ‘surgeons see with their hands,’ that the perception is in the touch.”   Prior to this technology, models were printed by manually defining the organ’s boundaries within the MRI scan. The method called for 200 cross sections to ensure precision, and took up to 10 hours to complete.   This study aimed to evaluate the validity of different methods of converting MRI scans to 3D models. Using a computer to define boundaries between different parts of an organ can be problematic, as the distinction between light and dark areas on the MRI scan might not always line up with the actual edges of the anatomical structure.

The researchers found the best results came when using a human expert to pinpoint one-ninth of the boundaries in each of the MRI’s cross sections. After 14 patches, the computer algorithm could infer the remainder of the boundaries with 90% precision for 200 cross sections. Experts who pinpointed all of the boundaries by hand only managed 80% precision.  "I think that if somebody told me that I could segment the whole heart from eight slices out of 200, I would not have believed them," Golland said. "It was a surprise to us.”   Using a combined human expert and computer algorithm to segment sample boundaries takes about one hour, while actually printing the 3D heart takes two more hours.   Next, cardiac surgeons with Boston’s Children’s Hospital will conduct a study to evaluate how useful the models are for medical practice. If the model hearts prove helpful, then 3D printing other organs from MRIs using this method will follow.   Photo Credits:   MIT and Bryce Vickmark

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Cancer Patient Receives World’s First 3D-Printed Rib Cage

A 54-year-old man from Spain was diagnosed with a chest wall sarcoma, a type of cancer where a tumor grows in or on the rib cage. He had no choice but to have a portion of his ribcage removed, including his sternum. In a world-first, the man has had the missing pieces successfully replaced with a 3D-printed prosthetic.   The man’s doctors could have gone a traditional route to create a prosthetic rib cage for him. But traditional implants were risky because they could become loose as time passed, making it likely that the man would suffer complications and need additional operations. That’s why 3D printing became the most promising option. A 3D printed implant would be the most precise replica of the size and shape of the man’s ribcage.   The surgeons at the Salamanca University Hospital in Spain decided to contact CSIRO, a medical device company in Australia. They provided them with a computer tomography scan of the man’s chest so they could create an implant that most accurately matched the missing parts of his ribcage.   In an interview with ABC, the Alex Kingsbury, Manufacturing Research Leader at CSIRO, said, “3D-printing was the most desirable method because the implant needed to be customized to the patient. No human body is the same.”  
"We thought, maybe we could create a new type of implant that we could fully customize to replicate the intricate structures of the sternum and ribs," Dr. Jose Aranda, a surgeon on the team, said in a press release. "We wanted to provide a safer option for our patient, and improve their recovery post-surgery.”     The designers at CSIRO successfully created pieces to replace both his sternum and part of his ribs. After surgery, the man spent only 12 days in the hospital before feeling fit to go home.   "The operation was very successful. Thanks to 3D printing technology and a unique resection template, we were able to create a body part that was fully customised and fitted like a glove," Dr. Aranda added.   The titanium ribcage is just another addition to the growing list of 3D printed prosthetics and implants being developed around the world, including knee, skull and jaw parts, vertebra and skin grafts.   While CSIRO designed the rib cage in Australia, fed the design into a 3D printer, and sent the finished product to Spain, there’s hope that hospitals of the future will be equipped enough to do at least part of these tasks on their own.   According to Dr. Mia Woodruff of QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation and Leader of the Biomaterals and Tissue Morpohography Group, “Our hospital of the future, from our point of view, is going to have the patient go into hospital, you scan them and immediately next to that operating table you can print them that scaffold.”   Media Credits:
CSIRO

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3D Printed Microfish May Help Deliver Drugs and Remove Toxins

It still sounds like Science Fiction — the next development in 3D printed science is a micro robotic fish.   Medical researchers from the University of California, San Diego have just started testing a new 3D printed nanotechnology that could be used for drug delivery or even removal of toxins (such as bee venom) from the body.   Groundbreaking Research   Published in the August issue of the journal Advanced Materials, a team of researchers from the NanoEngineering Department led by Shaochen Chen and Joseph Wang 3D printed micro fish that size up at 30 microns thick and 120 microns long.   Through a series of tests, the team were able to find the micro fish effective in purifying water that was contaminated with a toxin. Once in action, the fish glow red and swim around to completely decontaminate the water.   A New Method of Micro-Manufacture   The micro fish were developed using a high resolution 3D printer and a technique called microscale continuous optical printing (COP), which enables them to print hundreds of fish in just a few seconds. The fish are made of tiny pieces of platinum in the tail that form a reaction when in contact with hydrogen peroxide. If they are placed in hydrogen peroxide, the reaction causes their tails to move so that they start to swim. It is also possible for the researchers to use other particles in addition to platinum when producing the fish, such as chemicals that identify and eliminate toxins.   The method is still very new, so it might take a while before we see the results applied to medical practice.

High Hopes for Tiny Fish  Wei Zhu, a nanoengineering Ph.D. student and co-author on the study, said, "We have developed an entirely new method to engineer nature-inspired microscopic swimmers that have complex geometric structures and are smaller than the width of a human hair. With this method, we can easily integrate different functions inside these tiny robotic swimmers for a broad spectrum of applications.”   Jinxing Li, another researcher on the project, said in a press release, “This method has made it easier for us to test different designs for these microrobots and to test different nanoparticles to insert new functional elements into these tiny structures. It’s my personal hope to further this research to eventually develop surgical microrobots that operate safer and with more precision.”   The groundbreaking project has received support by the NIS as well as the Defense Threat Reduction Agency-Joint Science and Technology Office for Chemical and Biological Defense.   Photo Credits:
Popular Science
Perfect Science

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A Life Saving Prosthetic: The 3D Printed Beak

The ability to create affordable prosthetics for humans by 3D printing has been in the news since shortly after the it was invented. Now, more animals are benefitting from the technology. Most recently, several birds have successfully joined this growing club of animals with 3D printed prosthetics. But damaged beak most often means death since the birds can’t eat properly, making this 3D printed fix a life saving solution.   Grecia from Costa Rica Take Grecia, a toucan from Costa Rica. He was a neighborhood pet, where people fed him regularly. This is why he didn’t fly away when approached by a group of kids who snapped off his top beak. Toucans not only use their beaks to eat, but also to regulate body temperature, so Grecia was in a dangerous situation.   Locals took Grecia to the Zoo Ave Animal Rescue Center, where workers campaigned for money and help to create a prosthetic for him. Ewa Corps designed him a two piece 3D beak, with a fixed part and removable piece so that it could be cleaned or replaced when Gercia outgrows it.   Grecia isn’t the only bird benefitting from a 3D printed beak. In the US, a penguin and an eagle have successfully adapted to the prosthetic.   A Chinese Pelican’s Loss for Love One Chinese White Pelican living at the Dalian Forest Zoo in China ended up with a partially shattered beak after a courtship fight with other pelicans. The bird couldn’t open and close his mouth, let alone eat, and he was shunned by the rest of his flock. Doctors tried several times to fix the damaged beak with aluminum foil but it could not withstand the bird’s activity. They decided to enlist the help of Bao Shu of the Dalian Ruling Science and Technology Company to create a 3D prosthetic.   In White Pelicans, the beak grows tissues that connect inside the mouth, so that removing the broken section of the beak and replacing it with a prosthetic wouldn’t be possible. So instead, doctors 3D printed a board with matching size and texture of the pelican’s beak, and screwed it into the existing beak to hold it in place. The prosthetic took four prototypes, but it was a success, and the pelican was already able to eat again the day after surgery.   A Green Bill from Brazil
The most recent success story of a bird with a new beak is for a Green Billed Tucon, who lost most of his upper beak after flying into a window.   “This toucan could not eat, so if we did not do the operation he literally starve to death,” said veterinarian Roberto Fecchio. “We had to think of something to help him. It is voluntary work involving many people, a multidisciplinary team and we are learning too along the way.”   Doctors replicated part of the bird’s beak using photogrammetry, and printed a prosthetic that now allows the bird to lead a normal life.   Photo Credits:
The Telegraph
3DPrint.com
3ders.org

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