A team of doctors in The Netherlands performed successful jaw transplant surgery recently that showcases just how far the power and potential of 3D printing has come as key asset in medical applications, particularly the design and development of custom prosthesis.
An 83-year-old woman suffering from a chronic bone infection received a lower jaw transplant of a 3D-printed jaw made out of titanium powder as opposed to undergoing reconstructive surgery, which the medical team deemed too risky because of her age. Using a 3D model of the patient's lower mandible, the medical team, in partnership with metal additive manufacturing provider LayerWise, constructed and 3D-printed a metal jaw implant structure that incorporates articulated joints and dedicated features, becoming one of the first complete patient-specific implants, according to officials.
A team of medical professionals successfully performed a jaw transplant using a 3D-printed, patient-specific prosthesis made out of titanium powder. (Source: LayerWise)
Additive manufacturing technology was a natural fit for this application because the process doesn't face any restrictions in terms of producing the complex lower jaw implant structure unlike other technologies, which could require multiple metalworking steps. In addition to LayerWise, the method was developed by the biomed research group at the University of Hasselt in collaboration with engineers from Xios Hogeschool, Xiloc Medical BV, and the University of Leuven. Maxillofacial surgeons from the Orbis Medisch Centrum Sittard-Geleen were also heavily involved.
Medical applications are one of the key areas where industry experts expect 3D printing technology to take off. Use of 3D printers and advanced 3D modeling software technology for producing dental structures and orthopedic prosthesis is becoming more commonplace, and there have been industry reports of 3D printers being used in making other body parts, including blood vessels, and growing new bones. There's even futuristic talk of replacing the metal powders commonly used in 3D printing with organic tissue and bone material, which would essentially function as the "ink" for the 3D printing process.
I agree, Ann. While there's lot of research out there as to the potential, there are far to many unknowns and not fully evolved capabilities to make printing 3D organs a reality. Nice to know there is money and research time being devoted to this cause, however. Once we succeed, it will make some signficant changes in people's lives.
I think it will be quite a long time before we can print organs. First we have to be able to create them by duplicating their functions, and I don't think we're very close to that, let alone 3D printing them.
I personally have experience with titanium implants; just four months ago, I had three of my lowest vertebrea fused to my sacrum (L3 through S1). I now have eight screws, which thread through carriers, which are then held together with two vertical pins.
They expect the screws/hardware to loosen up over time, so at the time of surgery, they pulled bone marrow from my hip, and inject that into an organic sponge material and promote new bone growth between the vertebrea (disks removed) and along the titanium hardware. In days past, and still at some hospitals, they used to harvest full sections of bone from the patient's hip, or use cadaver bone to promote new bone growth. There were always problems with the patient's body rejecting the implanted bone, especially if it was harvested from a cadaver. This is not a surgery that I want to repeat due to bone rejection.
It was a long surgery and painful recovery, but I can't believe how much of my life I have back already! I have a long (10") vertical scar where they entered the back, but it is in a location that is normally covered. The x-rays are cool though, with the titanium glowing white relative to the soft tissue and bone.
Overall, it has been a positive, abliet expensive, experience, since I can tie my own shoes again. Only three days/two nights in the hospital. The only drawback so far is the extra waiting to get through security at the airport:( Thank goodness for body scanners!
Yes, I saw the home health care in action last week. I have a friend who was "admitted" to the hospital at home when a gallbladder operation resulted in a serious infection. He was monitored from home with visits from health professionals. We'll likely see more of that in coming years.
Rob: I agree with you that medical technology will be the "space program of the next decade." Patient monitoring -- thanks to new sensors and smart bandages -- will change the way medicine is practiced. The doctor's office could go the way of the house call.
Truchard will be presented the award at the 2014 Golden Mousetrap Awards ceremony during the co-located events Pacific Design & Manufacturing, MD&M West, WestPack, PLASTEC West, Electronics West, ATX West, and AeroCon.
In a bid to boost the viability of lithium-based electric car batteries, a team at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has developed a chemistry that could possibly double an EV’s driving range while cutting its battery cost in half.
Using Siemens NX software, a team of engineering students from the University of Michigan built an electric vehicle and raced in the 2013 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. One of those students blogged for Design News throughout the race.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.