This blog series has covered 3D printing from a few different angles. Admittedly, I do tend to prefer the less heavy pursuits, such as food or dinosaurs, but this week we’re going to cover a few medical 3D printing stories that have the power to change lives. This batch of stories includes facial implants, 3D printed vertebra and printed liver tissue. No one can live forever, but quality of life and how we confront aging and disease is about to change courtesy of the 3D printer.
Oxford Performance Materials created printable biocompatible implants that behave like real bone structures. Last year, the company was able to use 3D printing to create an implant that replaced 75 percent of a patient’s skull. Now, they have FDA clearance to begin bringing their medical miracle to the United States. 3D printing’s ability to create custom pieces allows for medical professionals to print patient-specific implants based on digital image files.
For the first time, 3D printed vertebra was implanted into a young patient – a twelve-year-old boy suffering from a tumor on his spinal cord. The 3D printed vertebra, made from titanium powder, replaced cancerous vertebra removed by doctors at Peking University. As seen with the facial implants, 3D printing’s ability to fit specific patient needs was on display. In this case, doctors even created an implant that will allow bones to grow into the 3D printed vertebra, eliminating the need for cement and screws.
San Diego-based Organvo is working toward a lofty goal: printing human organs that can be used for transplantation. While we might be a decade or more away from having spare hearts and livers (maybe you wait a few years before that extra glass of wine), the company recently revealed that its printed liver tissue is being used in drug testing. Organvo’s liver tissue is advancing to the point where it can now be used to determine whether prescription drugs will damage the actual human organ. Not only is this a step to meeting the ultimate goal of printing a complete organ, but it has the potential to change the entire pharmaceutical testing process.
3D printing is an emerging technology changing the world, but by no means is it the only one. Advanced robotics and sensor technology are another. SynTouch, makers of sensor technology that allows robots to replicate the human sense of touch, is poised to change the prosthetics and robotics field by bringing the world into the future of machine touch. Watch this video to learn how the company uses SOLIDWORKS to create the world’s most touching prosthetics.
Vertebra image courtesy of Forbes
Organovo image courtesy of 3DPrint.com