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  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. 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
  11. 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
  12. 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
  13. 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
  14. 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
  15. 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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