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  1. Three-dimensional (3D) printing technology was invented in the 1980s to create mechanical prototypes for the manufacturing sector. Healthcare professionals and researchers soon realized the potential of this novel technology in the field of medicine and began depositing desired materials on specific substrates to create anatomical models, surgical instruments, prosthetics and even body parts that could be customized to meet the needs of the user. Scientists rely on MRI and CT scan images of the patients to obtain the exact dimensions for the target object, feed the image data into one or more software programs, and let the 3D printer do its job. Millions of dollars have been spent on 3D medical printing and bioprinting research in last decade, and such endeavors have led to the creation of several innovative solutions. Nonetheless, many of these products can't benefit the patients until they come with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) seal of approval. Recently, the federal agency woke up to the needs of the 3D medical printing industry and issued guidance for 3D printed medical devices based on design, manufacturing and device testing information. Many 3D printed products have received FDA approval, some of which are highlighted below. The O2 Vent a 3D Printed Solution for Sleep Apnea In April, 2016, Oventus, an Australian startup, received FDA approval for its titanium mouth device called the O2 Vent. The customizable oral device contains airways that reach the back of the patient’s mouth bypassing obstructions caused by nose, soft palate or tongue. The 3D printed device is expected to benefit over 37 million Americans suffering from sleep apnea while helping Oventus enter the $50 billion global sleep disorder market. Spritam, the FDA approved 3D Printed Drug In another bold step, the FDA approved a 3D printed drug, Spritam, to treat partial onset seizures, myoclonic seizures and primary generalized tonic-clonic seizures. Its manufacturer, Aprecia Pharmaceuticals, used the ZipDose 3D printing technology to create a pill that disintegrates in the mouth with very little water and is especially beneficial to patients who cannot swallow their medication during seizures. The high-dose drug can impact over 2.4 million American adults with epilepsy, as per an article published in the March, 2016, edition of Forbes. Lateral Spine Truss System Another innovative product, the Lateral Spine Truss System, also received a go-ahead from the federal agency in 2016. It consists of 3D printed orthopedic implants, manufactured by 4WEB Medical, that allow for integrated instrumentation and customization. They come in sterile packs and can be used with most mainstream spinal surgery techniques. The goal is to deliver functional implants with a structural design. CASCADIA Cervical and CASCADIA AN Lordotic Oblique Interbody Systems The FDA has also issued a 510 (K) clearance to K2M for CASCADIA Cervical and CASCADIA AN Lordotic Oblique Interbody Systems with Lamellar 3D Titanium technology. While CASCADIA Cervical Interbody System is an intervertebral body fusion device, the CASCADIA AN Lordotic Oblique Interbody System has been designed for transforaminal-lumbar interventions. K2M expects its product to help the approximately 800,000 men and women who undergo cervical fusion each year. 3D Printed Cranial Implants Brazilian and U.S. based BioArchitects collaborated with Swedish 3D printing company ArcamAB to generate patient-specific cranial implants. The company used Electron Beam Melting technology and lightweight titanium alloys to form the implants. Although the FDA approval is restricted to the non-loadbearing bones of the skull and face, healthcare professionals are hopeful that the technology can treat a variety of conditions ranging from trauma to congenital abnormalities. While 3D printed products with FDA approvals strive to become more accessible to all patients, others are waiting in the pipeline for a green light from the agency. Licensing requirements include extensive lab testing and clinical evaluation. Doctors and scientists are, however, confident the products will meet the criteria and get the necessary endorsements from the FDA to eventually help transform medicine. Sources: http://www.news-medical.net/news/20160407/Oventus-gains-FDA-clearance-for-medical-device-designed-to-alleviate-snoring-OSA.aspx http://www.todaysmedicaldevelopments.com/article/3d-printed-medical-device-4web-8316/ http://www.meddeviceonline.com/doc/k-m-enhances-d-printed-spine-portfolio-featuring-lamellar-d-titanium-technology-0001
  2. Difference Between 3D Medical Printing and Bioprinting The first three-dimensional (3D) printer was invented by Charles Hull in 1984. In the next 30 years, the technology advanced rapidly and evolved into a $3.07 billion industry by the end of 2013. The 2014 Wohler’s report expects this number to grow to $12.8 billion by 2018 and exceed $21 billion by 2020. Unlike the past, the use of 3D printing technology is not limited to prototyping and development of traditional consumer products such as cars and electronics. The technology has also revolutionized the field of medicine as scientists and healthcare professionals are using 3D printing to print everything from prosthetics and surgical instruments to medications and biological tissues. The goal is to develop highly specific therapeutics to manage complex illnesses and injuries. What is 3D Medical Printing? A variety of 3D printers are available in the market today. While some versions are highly versatile, others have been specifically designed to create a particular type of product. Traditional 3D medical printers use inorganic compounds such as polymer resins, metal, plastic, ceramic and rubber among other things. The printer will deposit the desired materials on a substrate in a specific pattern that is based on the texture and the dimensions of the target object. Users often rely on scanned images of the target to obtain accurate measurements. Research labs, surgeons and corporations have used this technology to create surgical instruments, implants and models of various tissues and organs. How is Bioprinting Different? Traditional 3D medical printing and bioprinting are obviously inter-related and somewhat similar to each other. In fact, many people use the terms interchangeably. While both printers use the same basic additive printing technology, bioprinting and 3D printing differ significantly at the implementation level mainly because of the type of raw materials they use. Bioprinters have been designed to deposit biological materials such as organic molecules, bone particles, cells and other extracellular matrices on a desired substrate. Unlike traditional 3D medical printing, this process involves complex designing and extensive scaffolding as it aims to generate multicellular structures that mimic the real tissue in structure and function. In most cases, the printer should be maintained within a controlled environment to retain the viability of the product. Organovo is a leading company in the field of bioprinting. Currently, bioprinting technology is being used to print tissue fragments, dental and bone implants, medications, and prosthetics. The products can be customized as per the specific needs of the patient or the research study. Many pharmaceutical companies are using bioprinted tissue fragments to understand the actual impact of medications and other therapeutics at the cellular level. Surgeons are also hopeful that the highly compatible bioprinted implants and tissues will increase the success rates of transplantation surgeries. In fact, many products are already undergoing clinical trials. As per TechNavio, a leading market research company, the bioprinting industry will grow at the rate of 14.52 percent between 2013 and 2018. Along with 3D medical printing, it is helping surgeons and other healthcare professionals understand the human body in great detail. The two technologies are complementing each other and are evolving together to change medicine forever. Sources: http://www.azom.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=12824
  3. The future of regenerative medicine lies on the advancements of technologies such as 3D printing. Recently, 3D medical printing has led to the reproduction of cartilages, bones as well as other soft tissues. One of the leading countries when it comes to 3D medical printing is China. Scientists from the Xi’an Particle Cloud Advanced Materials Technology Co., Ltd. have successfully developed patented 3D printing process to create the biodegradable artificial bone structures. To create the bone structures, the researchers used advanced Filament Free Printing techniques in order to create scaffolds that can be implanted to the human body and encourage growth of bones from human cells. To ensure the safety of the artificial body parts, the researchers have tested them by doing animal testing. The researchers announced that the rounds of animal testing were successful. Specifically, the researchers created a defect on the bottom part of a rabbit’s femur and implanted a 3D printed artificial bone to the area of concern to correct the defect. Researchers noticed that the new cells have regrown within 48 hours on the surface of the artificial bone which served as the scaffold. This exciting discovery suggests that 3D printer can be used for man-made replacement for the actual living bone. With this promising research, it is no doubt that the 3D printing technology will go a long way when it comes to treating different bone deformities as well as bone health anomalies. Today, the Chinese researchers were successful in creating scaffolds for bone regrowth but they will eventually make different organs to treat patients suffering from different diseases.
  4. Researchers from the Bringham and Women’s Hospital in Boston performed the first ever transplantation using 3D printing. The study was led by Dr. Frank J. Rybicki, Dr. Bohdan Pomahac and Dr. Amir Imanzadeh and they used 3D printed models of the recipient’s head to guide the planning of the transplantation surgery. Face transplantation is a complex surgical procedure and the success largely depends on surgical planning. Using models produced by 3D medical printers allows surgeons to hold the model of the recipient’s skull in their hands so that they can have a better and more accurate view on how to proceed with the surgery. Using computed tomography (CT) scans and 3D visualization techniques, life-size models of the patient’s skull was created. To do this, the CT images of the head were also segmented and processed using a state-of-the-art software to create accurate data files that will be sent to the 3D printer. The proponents of the study noted that 3D printing is a very helpful tool in helping surgeons rebuild the facial structures of the patient because they have a more precise picture on what to expect during the actual transplantation itself. On the other hand, if the patient has missing bony structures that are needed for the reconstruction, the 3D printing technology can easily make the modifications before the actual surgery. This makes allows doctors to save more time and effort during the surgery. 3D medical printing has become a mainstay technology in the field of medical science and it has helped doctors spend less time in the operating room but better performance for patient outcomes.
  5. 3D medical printing has been used to revolutionize medicine. While it allows doctors to create models of organs as well as create artificial implants, some researchers are studying 3D printing and how it can be used to treat dreaded diseases like cancer. A group of British researchers from the Institute of Cancer Research in London aims to use 3D bioprinting to treat cancer in a smart way. The head radioisotope physicist from the institute noted that 3D medical printing can be used to treat cancer by printing small implants that can accurately and deliver radiopharmaceuticals directly to the affected area. The implants will have a hollow space which can be filled with cancer treatment medicine. He said that the success in treating cancer is to personalize the delivery of radiation dose to the tumor. The new research involves printing “phantoms” of tumors based on the CT scan taken from the patient. These phantoms are made from plastic moulds that can be filled with radiopharmaceuticals. Researchers have used a 3D medical printer from Stratasys which is also responsible for making medical innovations using 3D printing. Radiopharmaceuticals refer to drugs that contain radioactive materials that can be injected to the veins or taken orally to kill cancer cells. Moreover, the moulds have the capacity to release the medicine in a timely manner. Flux and his colleagues are very positive about the outcome of their research and in the future, it can be used to treat different kinds of tumors including those that develop in the thyroid, bone and prostate.
  6. 3D medical printing holds a very big potential in the field of medical science. The capacity of 3D medical printing to create customized implants, as well as medical devices, is catered specifically to a patient’s anatomy. To date, 3D printing has already been used to revolutionize many surgical procedures. One of the most revolutionary way 3D printing was used to replace a cancer patient’s upper jaw. Specialists scanned the patient’s face to create a 3D reconstruction of their face. This was used to create the parts of a functional upper jaw that was never before used in medicine. Aside from creating an artificial yet life-like upper jaw, 3D medical printing can also be used to create other parts of the body such as a new skull, vertebrae, heel and hip implants. Several medical companies and research institutions have invested on 3D printing to revolutionize surgical procedures. On the other hand, 3d bioprinting can also be used to create a life-like model of a patient’s specific organ system such as the heart so that surgeons can easily plan their approach when it comes to dealing with complicated surgical procedures. For instance, surgeons from Kosair Children’s Hospital have used 3D medical printing to study the model of a baby’s heart in order to get an opportunity to plan before the surgery. These examples are, no doubt, just the tip of the iceberg on what 3D medical printing can do for the field of medical science. With its many uses, 3D medical printing may have a lot of potential uses to help both doctors and patients.
  7. Medacta USA announced that two US surgeons have completed the first ever spinal reconstruction using 3D printing. Spinal surgery got a boost from 3D medical printing thus giving hopes to many patients suffering from spinal diseases. Dr. Samuel S. Jorgenson and Dr. Richard Manos from the Spine Institute of Idaho were the first surgeons to use the technology dubbed as the MySpine Patient Matched Technology. The spinal cord is an important part of the central nervous system next to the brain. It sends messages from the brain to the nerves that are connected to different parts of the bodies. The MySpine 3d printing customizes the placement guides thus allowing the surgeons to understand the complexities involving each of their patient’s spinal anatomy. This means that the process during the operation becomes more precise and accurate. This 3D medical printing technology cuts down the time of the procedure. The MySpine technology is customized for each of the patient. The screws are 3D fabricated and are used to position them on to the spine. Aside from 3D fabricating the screws, the 3D medical printing can also guide doctors when it comes to surgical planning software which assists the surgeons when it comes to the placement of the screws depending on the unique anatomy of each patient. 3D medical printing has proven to be a very crucial technology not only in manufacturing biocompatible body parts but it can also be used to improve surgical operations including the ever so delicate spinal surgery. With its success, the MySpine technology was recently acknowledged as the Best New Technology for Spinal Care in 2014.
  8. As a first time parent—or in fact for a lot of moms, the waiting time for seeing your baby or holding your baby for the first time is an unbearable agony. Would-be parents just can’t wait to hold their wonderful babies in their arms. In fact, they have a hard time reining in their excitement on whose parental looks the baby is more like. That’s why ultrasounds are used by many parents to find out their baby’s gender; soon they were able to see their baby’s face more clearly through 3D ultrasounds. But, here comes the age of 3D medical printing which has stepped up a notch the technologies when it comes to seeing your baby inside the womb. Did you know that it is now possible to 3D print fetus? Yes, in fact plenty of establishments are already offering this wondrous technology to pregnant females so that they can have a 3D doll of their baby who’s still in the womb. One such company is 3D Babies who can create a life sized fetal sculpture of your baby in your womb from your ultrasound results for only $600. You may ask, what about my older kids? Won’t I have the chance of getting a 3D baby doll of him or her? The answer is yes, you can still have a 3D baby doll of them provided that you have kept their ultrasound results. Your 3D baby doll is so life like and life size that you can even choose from two different fetal positions and 3 different skin tone colors. You have to take great care in handling this baby doll though, because it’s made of dried pasta noodles and can easily break.
  9. Researchers from Russian laboratory called 3D Bioprinting Solutions announced that the first successful product of 3D bioprinting will be transplanted and results will be published on May 2015. The first 3D bioprinted organ will be the thyroid gland. The head of the research laboratory, Vladimir Mironov, noted that the thyroid gland was chosen as the first product in 3D medical printing because of the simplicity of the organ. The bioprinted thyroid was created by a 3D printer that shoots off stem cells. The stem cells are precisely arranged on a hydrogel and then soaked in bioreactor to further develop into the thyroid organ. The testing of the first bioprinted thyroid will be done on mice and Mironov gave details on how the testing will go about. The biological thyroid of the mice will be shut off and this will lead to the level of thyroid hormones to drop. The bioprinted thyroid will then be transplanted and the level of the hormones will then be monitored if it will get back to normal. The scientists are very positive about the outcome of the transplantation. If the transplantation will be successful, the scientists see that thyroid 3D bioprinted organ will go down in the annals of medical history as the very first bioprinted organ to be successfully transplanted. The Russian professor also wants to develop other organs through 3D medical printing. Once the 3D bioprinted thyroid will be successful, his team also aspires to make a functional kidney using 3D printing technology.
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