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3D Printing of Body Parts

The merger of biological and non-biological parts in the human body is underway. It is not hard to imagine amazing cures for things previously thought impossible. Thousands die every year while waiting for a transplant. That will become history. Clinicians can’t print an operating human liver yet, but they can print liver tissue. Progress is being made at an incredible pace. Christine Hsu at MedPage Today compiled an impressive list of things already accomplished. I have paraphrased from her research.

Eyes: In 2013, British engineers at Fripp Design in London and Manchester Metropolitan University developed an inexpensive and realistic 3D printed prosthetic eye.

Heart Valve: Researchers at Cornell University used 3D printing technology to create a functioning heart valve. This amazing breakthrough can actually grow as patients grow. A published 2013 described 3D bio-printed heart valves for treatment of aortic valve disease and other congenital heart defects.

Spine: Doctors in Medanta, India, successfully 3D printed two titanium implants to replace a patient’s infected vertebra. The patient was able to walk after a few months.

Ears: Princeton University researchers successfully merged cartilage tissue with electronics and created a fully functioning “bionic ear”. Bionic parts are becoming more practical as researchers develop new techniques requiring fewer blood vessels.

Liver: Scientists at Organovo have developed 3D bio-printed liver tissue. The primary use so far is for preclinical drug discovery. The printed tissue consists of primary human hepatocytes, stellate, and endothelial cell types, the same as found in native human liver tissue.

Blood Vessels: One of the main problems with creating entire artificial human organs is the difficulty in creating the necessary vascular system. However, researchers have discovered a technique to generate hollow channels within 3D-printed vessels which can enable blood flow throughout a 3D printed organ.

Pelvis: A rare bone cancer caused a patient to lose half of his pelvis. Doctors were able to 3D print a titanium pelvis using a scan of the biological pelvis of the patient which provided the exact dimensions of the new, customized hip. The patient was able to walk after the procedure.

Skull: Implanting skulls is not new, but 3D printed skulls are offering much better fit and customizability. Following a horrible accident, a first-grader received a 3D printed skull implant. It fits perfectly with his existing skull bone structure.

See Christine’s full story with images at: 10 Body Parts We Successfully 3D Print | Medpage Today and read more about regenerative medicine in Health Attitude: Unraveling and Solving the Complexities of Healthcare.

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