Technology has made many advances in health care, from life-saving medicines to robots to help surgeons perform less invasive surgeries. Now scientists are hoping to use 3D printing to grow human body parts. Scientists in Australia have found a way to use 3D printing to reproduce tissue material.
They have already begun animal trials to reproduce skin, cartilage, arteries, and heart valves. One professor says that the process may eventually do away with organ transplants. The print devices and structures could be implanted in to human bodies, allowing these devices to have cells grown on them, allowing bodily functions to be replicated on the tiny devices. It is hoped that in the future that these devices will recreate patient’s joints and bones, and even organs.
3D printing is already being used to create prosthesis. One man has had 75 percent of his skull cap replaced by a prosthesis. Oxford Performance Materials (OPM) supplied the cranium replacement. The news of this came after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave OPM approval to use poly-ether-ketone-ketone (PEKK) as the skull implant. PEKK is more flexible that metallic compounds, such as stainless steel and titanium, which are usually found in prosthetics. PEKK is also more resistant to abrasion, as well as more similar to bone in terms of its density and stiffness.
The 3D printing for this prosthesis take a digitally scanned model of the patient’s skull and print out a matching 3D object layer by layer. The manufacturing technique can encourage the growth of cells and allow the bone to attach more easily by making tiny surface or edge detail on the replacement part.
Scientists are also looking at 3D printing to benefit spinal surgeries. Techniques using 3D printing would be loaded with stem cell infused bio-ink that would be aimed at repairing the degenerated spinal discs of patients. This technology would repair a person’s spine by using a 3D printer to print at string of stem cells onto specific portions of the patient’s spinal disc. After the surgery, the stem cells would begin to populate themselves as brand new spinal disc tissues. In cases of extreme spinal degeneration, entirely new spinal discs could be created, printed to meet the individual needs of each patient. This surgery would be a bit more invasive than the surgery to repair. However both these options are superior to the option of fusing a patient’s spine.
All of these breakthroughs are a wonderful thing for patients who suffer from degenerative disc disease, cancerous skull bones, victims of car accidents, and U.S. military personnel. While some of these procedures have yet to be tested on humans, they have the potential to be very beneficial.
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