Tuesday, August 21, 2018

How 3D Printing is Reshaping Medicine

by Albert Smith (writer), , April 28, 2015

Violet Pietrok was born with a bird's vision. It is so rare that only 100 such cases have been reported so far.

Violet Pietrok was born with a bird's vision. It is so rare that only 100 such cases have been reported so far.

A congenital facial malformation was responsible for the widening of her facial features, spacing out her eyes and widening her nose. A large central cleft sat right in the middle of her face and an unwanted growth over her left eye smirked audaciously.

This devil of a disease goes by the name of frontonasal dysplasia. Plastic surgeon-in-chief Dr. John Meara of Boston Children's Hospital wasn't goingto give up. He prepared months ahead of the surgery with molds of Violet's skull created by a 3D printer since she turned one. It took him five different 3D printed models, loads of practice and a seven hour surgery to watch her play and smile and throw typical toddler tantrums again, just in time for her second birthday!

If you are wondering the role of 3D printing here, then let me tell you that had the 3D printed molds been not feasible, Violet's life could have been in danger. “This isn't like free throw practice”,Dr. Meara later explained, “You can't just go out and try and if you miss, try again”. Practicing on these models helped in ruling out any possible problems that could arise with certain methods.

A little know-how about 3D printing

As you can already figure out by the name, a 3D printer prints ink successive layers, unlike on a flat surface. The first 3D printer dates back to the 1980s when an American engineer by the name of Charles hull decided to turn acrylic ink into solid by exposing it to ultraviolet light.

Since then the uproar of a 3D has spread to all sectors of a person's lifestyle that you can imagine. And the implementation ideas have run crazy. Take these two for example:

·You can upload a photograph of your face and receive back a 3D printed bobble-head doll of your face.

·NASA is recently working on a zero-gravity 3D printer that can make pizza for orbiting astronauts.

Now imagine printing off a kidney or other human organ using a 3D printer. Seems like something ripped right out of a science fiction novel, doesn't it? But wait, with the overwhelming advancements in 3D printing technology, the realization isn't that far-fetched.

Current uses of 3D printing in medicine

3D printing isn't just stuck to being a tool for practicing complex surgical methods, but has spread its wings in successful transplants as well.

Doctors in Netherlands have successfully replaced a woman's skull with a 3D printed, artificial skull. A customized skull was made out of plastic to fit her brain precisely. She has returned to health full health since surgery.

In a study published in 2013 by the journal 'Science', researchers from the university of Edinburgh has revealed a magical valve-based 3D that can produce living human embryonic stem cells. These cellsare just as good as effective as the natural ones and can be used for creating tissue for testing drugs and growing replacement organs.

3D printed prosthetic are quite common nowadays. Arms have been thrust into the limelight, you even get to choose from an assortment of customized prosthetic arms, including Captain America. However, researchers have been working on developing artificial limbs by employing 3D printers for quite a while now. These limbs will be beneficial in two ways:

·They would cost lesser than the prosthetic counterpart

·They would fit well than a prosthetic

Scientists in UK are developing 3d printed prosthetic noses and ears for people missing these facial parts. What more, customized noses and ears can be matched exactly to the person's skin tone and facial shape.

In addition to organs, printing blood vessels, heart tissues, skin, cartilage, bone have also become popular since quite a long time now. 3D printing has even spread its wings into reading cancer cells too. Need I say more?

With rapid advancements already being implemented, it isn't quite difficult to predict that this technology has a huge potential. Bioprinting technology has gained overwhelming momentum over the years and is likely to change the way medicine is conventionally practiced. It looks to me like the start of something big.

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About the Writer

Albert Smith is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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