There are good and bad sides for everything, and 3D printing is no exception. The new printing technology, which is quickly becoming more popular these days has brought out some questionable ideas, but it also looks to have the potential to actually save lives in the future.
The little guy you see in the image above is Kaiba Gionfriddo. When he was just six weeks old, his parents found out that he had a severe form of tracheobronchomalacia, which makes his trachea collapse due to loosely supporting cartilage. This meant that he would stop breathing on a regular basis. But luckily for him, a 3D-printed tracheal support splint was already being developed by Dr. Glenn Green, University of Michigan associate professor of pediatric otolaryngology, and Dr. Scott Hollister, professor of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering.
They had to get permission from the US Food and Drug Administration to implant it into young Kaiba as the device wasn’t tested on humans before. After getting emergency clearance they created a computer model of the splint based of a CT scan of Kaiba’s trachea. Then they 3D printed it into a physical object made of a biopolymer called polycaprolactone and implanted it around Kaiba’s airway. He hasn’t had any breathing problems ever since and is now 20 months old. The polymer will be dissolved into his body within two to three years, and by that time more rigid cartilage will be present to prevent the tracheal collapse.
But 3D printing is going to be a blessing not just for children suffering from tracheobronchomalacia. The possibilities of the tech are endless.
As you might know, thousands of people in the US alone are in need for a kidney transplant. But the available number of kidneys are not even enough for half of the number of people in need. Close to 4000 people die in the US every year due to this reason. The answer to this issue could be bio printed kidneys. This is something that is being researched by a team led by Dr. Ibrahim Ozbolat at the University of Iowa.
Their long term goal is to develop “functioning human organs some five or 10 years from now”, according to Ozbolat. This means that patients suffering from other conditions as well could get help from 3D printing done with bio-ink, a solution made of bio materials and living cells. Ozbolat says, “One of the most promising research activities is bioprinting a glucose-sensitive pancreatic organ that can be grown in a lab and transplanted anywhere inside the body to regulate the glucose level of blood“. That could indeed be a great help for the millions of diabetic patients around the world.
Other possibilities include 3D printed skins and prosthetics. The list goes on. How about a 3D printed jaw implant, it’s here. Or how about a 3D printed skull piece, it’s also here. As you can see, the technology of 3D printing is certainly going to play a big part in the medical field in the future, or should we say from now on. It seems to have the potential to save lives while improving the living standards of many others.
What are your thoughts about 3D printing? Do you think that it’s going to play an important in the future of medical science?