mattjohnson

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  1. Very few infectious diseases in recent years have commanded the kind of attention and concern that Zika Virus has. Although Zika outbreaks have been reported in Africa, Southeast Asia and other parts of the world since the 1952, recent announcement by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirming its link with microcephaly has forced everyone to sit up and take notice. The CDC estimates that the current pandemic is widespread with at least 50 countries reporting active Zika transmissions at this time. Most people with Zika virus infection will not have any symptoms though some may experience mild fever, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, and headaches. The virus is primarily transmitted by the Aedes mosquito. However, pregnant women may pass the infection to their babies, which may lead to microcephaly, a neurological condition associated with an abnormally small brain in the infant. The condition can lead to birth defects ranging from hearing loss to poor vision and impaired growth. Prompt diagnosis and treatment of Zika virus infections in pregnant women can, nonetheless, lower the risk of microcephaly to a great extent. Researchers have, therefore, put in a lot of time, money and effort to find a solution, and as always, three-dimensional (3D) medical printing and bioprinting technologies are leading the way. Understanding the Disease To begin with, 3D printing has played a crucial role in conclusively establishing the link between Zika virus and microcephaly. Researchers at John Hopkins Medicine used 3D bioprinting technology to develop realistic models of brain that revealed how the virus infects specialized stem cells in the outer layers of the organ, also known as the cortex. The bioprinted models allowed researchers to study the effects of Zika exposure on fetal brain during different stages of pregnancy. The models are also helping the scientists with drug testing, which is the obvious next stage of their research. Zika Test Kit Engineers at Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, under the leadership of Professor Changchun Liu and Professor Haim Bau, have developed a simple genetic testing device that helps detect Zika virus in saliva samples. It consists of an embedded genetic assay chip that identifies the virus and turns the color of the paper in the 3D printed lid of the device to blue. This can prompt healthcare professionals to send the patient for further testing and to initiate treatment. Unlike other Zika testing techniques, this screening method does not require complex lab equipment. Each device costs about $2, making Zika screening accessible to pregnant women from the poorest parts of the world. Treating Microcephaly The scientists at the Autonomous University of the State of Morelos (UAEM) in Mexico are relying on the additive printing technology to create a microvalve that may help treat microcephaly in infants. The valve reduces the impact of the neurological disease and slows its progression by draining out excessive cerebrospinal fluid associated with this disorder. It can be inserted into the infant brain through a small incision to relieve fluid pressure and provide space for normal development. Researchers estimate the device will be available for patient use by 2017. These examples clearly demonstrate the impact of 3D printing on every aspect of the fight against Zika virus from diagnosing the disease to treating it. The results have been extremely promising, and both researchers and healthcare professionals are immensely hopeful that additive printing technology will help them overcome the infection quickly and effectively.
  2. Thanks for sharing your story and success with 3D printing. How much did the casts cost?
  3. Physicians across the globe have relied on surgical interventions for centuries to treat complex illnesses and injuries. High quality surgical instruments have played an important role in their success. Nonetheless, healthcare professionals are constantly looking for tools that would improve patient outcomes and minimize the risk of unwanted complications. In recent times, three-dimensional (3D) medical printing and bioprinting technologies have allowed doctors and engineers to develop innovative tools that help perform invasive procedures with greater ease. Robotic Surgical Tools Mechanical engineering students at Brigham Young University (BYU), under the guidance of their professors Barry Howell, Spencer Magleby, and Brian Jensen, combined additive printing technology and the ancient art of Origami to create surgical tools that can fit through 3mm wide incisions. Inside the body, the tools can unfold and expand into complex devices such as D-core tools. Minute incisions allow for quick healing eliminating the need for sutures and scars. The tools are highly precise and effective as well. Researchers at BYU are now collaborating with California-based Intuitive Surgicals to manufacture their products. The company is using 3D printing to develop both the prototypes and the actual tools. The 3D printing technology is also helping Intuitive Surgicals to create instruments with fewer parts making the entire process more cost-effective and stable. The Pathfinder ACL Guide Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Dana Piasecki of the OrthoCarolina Sports Medicine has developed a 3D printed surgical tool to conduct ACL surgeries with improved success. Currently, most surgeons drill a hole in the patient’s tibia to remove the torn anterior cruciate ligament and replace it with a graft. The procedure is painful, and the graft often fails to anchor properly. The Pathfinder ACL Guide, created by Dr. Piasecki in collaboration with Strasys Direct Manufacturing, has a 95 percent chance of placing the graft at the right position and helping it withstand the stress associated with extensive movement. The surgical tool is made from a biocompatible and flexible metal and is significantly cheaper than the existing devices. The Pathfinder ACL Guide has been registered with the FDA as a class I medical device and can now help thousands of amateur and professional athletes to continue playing their game in spite of an ACL tear. Eyelid Wands and Forceps Similarly, Dr. Bret Kotlus, a New York-based cosmetic surgeon, has used 3D printing technology to create customized tools for eyelid surgeries. His stainless steel Eyelid Wand helps surgeons lift excess eyelid skin and point it to various facial structures as per the needs of the patient. The handle of the tool consists of a ruler for accurate measurements. Dr. Kotlus has also developed 3D printed Pinch Blepharoplasty Marking Forceps that allow surgeons to mark excessive skin with a gentle ink. It comes with a round tip and a built-in ruler handle for additional patient comfort. These tools also add some sophistication to the doctor’s office at an affordable price. Close to 50 million surgical inpatient procedures are performed across the United States each year. While recent times have seen a significant improvement in the way these interventions are carried out, a lot can be done to make the process more efficient and safe. This is where 3D printing is bound to make a huge impact in the near future. Sources: Johnson & Johnson Adopts Cutting Edge 3D Printing for the Future of Medical Devices 3d printed eyelid instrument designed by Dr. Kotlus 3D Printed Tool Offers New Option for ACL Surgery Researchers Combine Origami, 3D Printing in Quest for Smaller Surgical Tools
  4. Since the 1980s, three-dimensional (3D) medical printing and bioprinting technologies have been influencing almost every aspect of the human life. Most people are, however, surprised at the kind of impact additive printing is having in the field of medicine. The technology is helping diagnose and treat complex illnesses ranging from cancer and heart disease to arthritis and infections. In recent months, several innovative 3D tools have also been created to overcome obesity. More than two-thirds of adults in the United States are obese or overweight. The prevalence of obesity has doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the last 30 years. This has increased the risk of Type II diabetes, cancer and other serious conditions in men and women of all ages and abilities. Both government agencies and nonprofit organizations have spent millions of dollars creating awareness about the issue. Consequently, many people now understand the importance of healthy diet and exercise. They, however, lack resources that will help them accomplish such goals. Physicians are also looking for tools that will assist them in treating morbid obesity more effectively. Thankfully, 3D printing technology is offering some novel solutions to everyone, and researchers believe that it will ultimately bolster the efforts aimed at reducing weight and enhancing fitness levels. Liposuction Tools BioSculpture Technology, under the leadership of New York Downtown Hospitals and the Presbyterian New York affiliated plastic surgeon Robert Cucin, is relying on 3D printing to develop an innovative line of surgical instruments to perform liposuction. The technology is also allowing surgeons to create exact replicas of the patient’s organs and practice the procedure before the actual intervention. Together, these products are making liposuction more accessible and safe. Liposuction is an invasive procedure that involves removal of excess fat from various parts of the body and is commonly used treat obesity. Close to 400,000 people underwent this surgery in 2015, as per the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Tracking Devices Exertion Games Lab in Melbourne, Australia, has created a simple device that can print 3D models of the user’s physical activity time, sleep time, and heart rate during the week to motivate and encourage them to set new challenges. Unlike smartphones and pedometers, the Exertion Games Lab device caters to the needs of children as it helps them grasp complex fitness-related information with ease. Children can also hold these models in their hands and share their enthusiasm with their peers. The Potential These examples just form the tip of the iceberg. The impact of 3D printing on the fight against obesity is expected to go beyond creating mechanical devices and surgical instruments. Tamara Nair, a Research Fellow at the Centre for Non-traditional Security (NTS) Studies in the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), believes that the technology can also be used to create food products with higher nutritional value. Such foods may help obese and overweight individuals manage calorie intake according to their activity level. The 3D printing technology can also make nutritious foods more palatable, says Nair. These potential benefits may appear like science fiction to some readers. Nonetheless, if the recent advances in the 3D printing and bioprinting technologies are anything to go by, they may turn into reality very soon.
  5. In spite of extensive research, the medical fraternity has not reached a consensus on what causes cancer and how it should be treated. Nonetheless, almost everyone agrees that early and accurate diagnosis is crucial for successful recovery. In fact, early detection can lead to a 70 percent decline in cervical cancer mortality, as per the Canary Foundation. Early diagnoses of colon cancer can increase the patient’s five-year survival rate from 11 percent to 91 percent. Almost 100 percent of the patients with breast and prostate cancer survive for more than five years when the condition is revealed at an early stage. Consequently, millions of dollars are being spent on developing and improving diagnostic techniques such as MRI scans, CT scans, PAP smears and mammograms. While these procedures have been immensely successful, they can be very expensive and may not be accessible to everyone. Some screening methods are associated with bleeding and other unwanted side effects. They can also lead to false-positive and false-negative reactions. Surprisingly, three-dimensional (3D) medical printing and bioprinting technology is paving the way for newer cancer screening techniques that are more sensitive, specific and cost effective. The technology allows the user to deposit desired materials on a substrate in a specific pattern to create medical devices, implants and prosthetics as per the needs of the patient. Simplified Blood Testing Miriam, a 3D printed blood testing device from Miroculus, uses proprietary microRNA detection technology and digital microfluids to identify early stage cancer at the molecular level. The company is focusing on gastric cancer at this time and has collaborated with the National Institute of Health to conduct clinical trials for the diagnostic device. The goal is to provide doctors with a simple tool to identify patients who require additional testing. This can help save thousands of dollars in the long run and make cancer screening available to patients in the poorest parts of the world. Printing the Ducts Another major challenge is to identify malignant tumors accurately. Doctors estimate that about 20 to 50 percent of breast tumors become invasive. However, the oncologists cannot determine which ones would worsen with time and hence, end up treating every patient with expensive and harmful medications. Researchers at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Carnegie Mellon University are relying on the 3D printing technology to print the duct between the mammary gland and the nipple. They hope to use the duct to grow breast tumors artificially in the lab and detect biomarkers that identify potentially malignant tumors. Mobile Devices Israeli startup MobileODT has developed a 3D printed mobile accessory known as the Mobile Coloscope. The doctors can attach the accessory to any smartphone and use it to click magnified images of the cervix. The images can help diagnose cervical cancer at an early stage. A disproportionately large number of women die of cervical cancer in the developing world due to inaccurate and delayed diagnosis. MobileODT hopes their device will help physicians overcome this hurdle. The success of these prototypes is inspiring other scientists to find novel cancer screening methods using 3D printing. Several projects have received millions of dollars in grant money with both healthcare professionals and scientists betting heavily on this technology. Soon, 3D printed devices may change the way physicians diagnose and treat cancer, and thereby help lower mortality rates significantly.
  6. Significant thinning or loss of hair can have a detrimental impact on the individual’s overall quality of life. Men and women with unhealthy hair often suffer from emotional issues and low self-esteem. The condition may also be indicative of an underlying medical problem. As per the American Hair Loss Association, two-thirds of American men experience some hair loss by the age of 35 and about 80 percent of them have significant thinning of hair by the age of 50. Approximately half of women over the age of 50 also suffer from serious hair loss. Apart from genetics and lifestyle, certain medications and infections can also contribute to the condition. You will find a variety of hair loss treatments in the market today ranging from herbal products to surgical interventions. However, none of these solutions have succeeded in producing dramatic results in a consistent manner. Researchers are, therefore, looking at three-dimensional (3D) medical printing and bioprinting to find products that really work, and their efforts seem to be paying off. 3D Printing Technology to Create Cranial and Hair Implants AdviHair, a subsidiary of London-based AdviCorp PlC, has developed a unique set of cranial prosthetics known as the CNC Hair Replacement System. The company uses 3D printing technology to create implants that conform to the patient’s scalp measurement and skin color. The product can help conceal partial or full scalp baldness associated with Alopecia. Once the prosthetic scalp is placed in position, it behaves like regular hair. You can swim, wash and style it the way you want. The product is expected to benefit more than 6.8 million Americans suffering from Alopecia, an autoimmune disorder that occurs when the patient’s immune system destroys his own hair follicles. The prosthetics are ideal for individuals who cannot undergo transplantation or other Alopecia treatments. Cosmetic giant L’ Oreal has collaborated with French bioprinting company Poietis to print hair follicles that will enhance their understanding of hair biology. The process involves creation of a digital map that indicates the exact position of the living cells and other tissue fragments. The digital map is used to generate instructions for the printing process. A pulsing laser bounces off a mirror through a lens and knocks one micro-droplet of the bio-ink into its position. Approximately 10,000 such droplets are deposited each second. L’Oreal is hoping to use this technology to create products that will treat and prevent hair loss at a realistic price. Improved 3D Printing Software for Hair Implants Although 3D printed cranial prosthetics and hair implants are gaining popularity, many of them take several hours to print. Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab are, therefore, working on a software platform called Cilllia that allows users to print hair-like structures within minutes. Additionally, researchers at the institute are looking beyond the aesthetics to explore other major functions of the follicles including adhesion, sensing, thermal protection and actuation. Hair loss can be stressful and overwhelming, and the treatments can be expensive. Many patients experience poor results in spite of their best efforts. Scientists are now using 3D printing to overcome the drawbacks associated with conventional treatments, and their recent success is offering hope to the millions of hair loss sufferers across the globe.
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  8. Implantable medical devices help diagnose and treat serious health conditions ranging from anatomical abnormalities to cardiovascular illnesses and kidney diseases. Commonly used devices include implantable cardioverter defibrillators, pacemakers, intra-uterine devices, spine crews, hip implants, metal screws, and artificial knees. Recent years have seen a significant increase in the use of such implants, which has led to the creation of several innovative products with improved function. Batteries play a crucial role in the successful operation of certain implantable devices. Most products rely on lithium cells that are powerful and easy to use. These electrochemical power sources can, however, lead to toxic side effects. Some patients may also experience biocompatibility issues. Healthcare professionals, nonetheless, had limited options, at least until now. The 3D Printed Battery Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University are aiming to overcome the drawbacks associated with traditional batteries by developing biodegradable versions made from natural ingredients. They have developed a prototype battery that can provide 5 milliWatts of power for up to 18 hours. This energy is enough to deliver medications slowly over a span of several hours or to detect the growth of pathogenic bacteria within the body. The battery is made from melanin pigment found in skin, hair and nails. The pigment protects the body by absorbing ultraviolet light and toxic free radicals. It also has the ability to bind to metallic ions and can therefore, transform into the perfect battery material. While melanin can form either the anodic or the cathodic terminal of the battery, magnesium oxide is used as the second terminal and the GI fluid comprises the electrolyte. The materials are housed in a three-dimensional (3D) printed capsule made from polylactic acid, or PLA. A 3D printer allows researchers to deposit the desired materials on a substrate in a specific pattern. It was invented in the 1980s to create engineering prototypes. Soon, researchers began using 3D printers in the field of medicine to improve patient outcomes. The technology helps customize the shape and the size of the outer capsule as per the needs of the consumer. The 3D printed capsule maintains the structural integrity of the battery and allows it to glide smoothly through the device. The capsule can dissolve quickly once it completes the essential functions. Other natural components within the battery can also degrade without producing any toxic side effects. The Future Currently, most ingestible and degradable probes and drug delivery systems remain in the body for about 20 hours. Although melanin batteries are less powerful when compared to their lithium counterparts, researchers believe that they could work very well with devices that remain in the body for only a few hours. The new battery is in the initial stages of development and will need to undergo extensive clinical testing before actual use. Nonetheless, it is a step in the right direction. Eventually, it may be possible to create more powerful versions of edible batteries that can support all types of medical devices, irrespective of their duration of use.
  9. In August 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first three-dimensional (3D) printed drug for commercial use when it allowed Pennsylvania-based Aprecia Pharmaceuticals to manufacture and market its anti-epileptic pill Spritam. The company relied on additive printing technology to create a rapidly dissolving pill that could be consumed with very little water. One of the main goals was to benefit patients who are unable to swallow medications, especially during an epileptic fit. The licensed ZipDose technology used by Aprecia Pharmaceuticals combines formulation and material science with additive printing technology. The process involves deposition a thin layer of the powdered medicine on a substrate followed by the addition of a liquid to bind the particles into porous layer. The process is repeated multiple times to create a pill of the desired size and concentration. The success of Spritam has encouraged Aprecia Pharmaceuticals to use ZipDose technology to develop medications for other serious illnesses as well. Dosage – Additive printing allows pharma companies to print drugs at specific dosages. Consequently, the patients do not have to suffer from poor prognosis associated with low-dose medications or consume high doses of drugs that can lead to unwanted side effects. As 3D printing technology becomes more prevalent in the pharmaceutical world, doctors can request for a specific dose of the drug instead of choosing from the available options. Solubility – Although rapidly disintegrating, porous pills have been in use for several years, they usually provide lower doses of the active ingredient. Three-dimensional printing technology has allowed Aprecia Pharmaceuticals to add up to 1,000 mg of the potent drug into one Spritam pill while retaining its solubility. This can benefit a large section of the population including young children, elderly, and patients suffering from complex neurological disorders. Compatible shape – Additive printing also helps produce pills in a variety of shapes and sizes, as per the needs of the consumer. Drug companies can produce small batches of the drug based on specific demand. Distribution of Production and Distribution – Unlike large machines, 3D printers are easy to setup and operate. The manufacturer can shift the production of the drug to a location that is closer to the consumer and thereby, lower transportation and distribution costs and reduce wait times for patients with potentially life-threatening conditions. Simplify Research and Development - 3D printing can also simplify research and development of new medications by making the process more efficient and cost-effective. Potential compounds can be printed in the laboratory and tested on 3D printed organs and cell lines for immediate results. Recent developments in additive printing have forced most drug companies to sit up and take notice. They are investing millions of dollars in the technology to speed up drug development. While the time to replace medication prescriptions with printer algorithms is not yet here, 3D printing is bound to have a huge impact on the way companies develop and manufacture drugs in the near future. Sources: http://www.computerworld.com/article/3048823/3d-printing/this-is-the-first-3d-printed-drug-to-win-fda-approval.html https://www.asme.org/engineering-topics/articles/manufacturing-design/3dprinted-drugs-does-future-hold http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/08/04/429341196/your-pill-is-printing-fda-approves-first-3d-printed-drug
  10. The three-dimensional (3D) medical printing and bioprinting industry is evolving at a rapid pace as 3D printers continue to move beyond research labs into commercial manufacturing facilities and hospitals. The printers are being used to create anatomical models, customized implants and even body parts that help treat, manage and prevent complex illnesses and injuries. The technology has contributed to the success several challenging surgical interventions in the recent times. Three-dimensional Printing Systems While scientists are using 3D printers for a variety of purposes, most physicians are relying on them to create patient-specific models of targeted organs and tissues. Healthcare professionals obtain accurate dimensions of the patient’s body parts from radiological images and feed the information into a computer to print exact replicas of the organs. These models help the surgeons assess the abnormality with precision and practice the surgery before the actual procedure. Several consumer-friendly 3D printing systems have been created to meet these needs. Belgium-based Materialise offers Mimics inPrint system that allows physicians to directly import patient images from hospital PACS and use them for 3D printing. The product comes with DICOM compatibility that supports all types of imaging machines. The semi-automated segmentation and editing tools within the printer’s software system ensure error-free printing and enhanced communication. Materialise sets up the entire system and trains the hospital staff to operate it efficiently. Stratasys Inc. also offers additive printing technology to hospitals across the globe. It has the widest variety of materials ranging from clear, rubberlike and biocompatible photopolymers to rigid and flexible composite materials in over 360,000 colors. The Medical Innovation Series from Stratsys has been created for physicians, medical device designers, clinical educators and other professionals in the healthcare industry. Success Stories Twelve National Health System (NHS) hospitals in the United Kingdom are relying on Stratsys printers to create models that allow surgeons to analyze patients’ condition, test implants and practice surgical interventions for better outcomes. Most popular 3D models at NHS hospitals include jaw bones for facial reconstruction surgeries, hip models for hip replacements, forearms for repairing deformed bones, and cranial plastics for fixing holes in a person’s skull. Doctors Without Borders, the Italian humanitarian organization, is also using 3D printed replicas of hospital models to setup new ventures in remote areas of the world. The technology allows physicians to have a realistic experience and thereby, improve patient care. Several other healthcare facilities are also using additive printing technology for increased efficiency. Physicians at Hong Kong’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital used 3D printing technology to help a 77-year-old woman suffering from two damaged valves. The patient had already undergone three open heart surgeries and needed a complex fourth intervention. The 3D printed model helped the doctors complete the surgery in just four hours. In another case, surgeons at Children’s Hospital in Colorado and engineers at Mighty Oak Medical created a 3D model of a patient’s spine to rehearse the surgery. The physicians also used additive printing technology to print customized brackets to treat the patient’s scoliosis. These success stories are inspiring other hospitals to install 3D printers at their facilities. They would, however, require expertise to handle the printer and tools to eventually use the 3D model for clinical purposes. Several facilities are incorporating 3D printing training programs to build knowledge within the institution and to lower the lead times for the actual procedure. While the initial investment may appear significant, most experts agree that 3D printing technology can be a game changer as it can help physicians improve clinical outcomes and reduce costs associated with complicated surgical interventions.