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Future of 3D printing healthcare applications

Certainly the medical applications are the most surprising if that 3D printing healthcare applications. However, although this technology is becoming a daily issue, and experts from many fields closely monitor its evolution. But there are still thousands of people still has no idea of its fantastic potential.

In the long run, 3D printing healthcare applications could have a big impact in the medical field, where extrusion of living cells rather than plastic materials by 3D printers has led to bio-printing.

This past August, CGTrader posted an article that talked about how 3D technology could improve health, or even save our lives, with 3D printing healthcare applications. The list of most amazing innovations impress everyone’s, many of them already be implemented in medical practice and research.

Hearing Aids

3d printing healthcare applications

The revolution began in this case in 1998, and now 98% of the existing hearing aids have been manufactured using 3D printing healthcare applications, with remarkable advances since then. A single 3D machine arriving to print 30 devices in only an hour and a half. At present, it is investigated in the manufacture of lithium micro batteries for the feeding of these and other devices.

3D printing at the dentist.

The contribution of 3D printing healthcare applications to the dental industry has changed the rules of the game, according to scientist Andrew Daewood, because before this technology became news, he had been using it for 10 years to do things that could not be done another way.

3D printing increases the quality of parts and speeds up production. This technology allows both obtaining a transparent dental Inman aligner printed in 3D for daily use, such as implants, dental sheaths, bridges, and a wide variety of dental applications. Not only that, but 3D scanning and modeling of patients’ dental problems would even allow sending CAD files created to other specialists, which could be applied to obtaining second medical opinions, as seen in the Next video from Stratasys.

3D printing healthcare applications for Bones

In the spring of the same year, a patient in the US underwent radical surgery, in which 75% of his skull was replaced by a 3D-printed implant made of a material not only biocompatible but also bone-like. On the other hand, an 83-year-old woman received the first titanium jaw implant made with a 3D printer last year.

3D impression may also be the hope of many babies born with tracheobronchomalacia, a congenital anomaly that occurs in one of every 2100 newborns and consists of weakness of the walls of the trachea, producing collapses during respiration or when they cough, and is often misdiagnosed as asthma. Recently, a hopeful story in a medical portal came to light: the case of a baby who, despite living with a mechanical ventilator, had to be saved every day due to this illness. The University of Illinois’s Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB) developed a 3D-printed splint that was stitched around the girl’s tracheostomy tube to expand her airways and provide support for tissue growth. This support is made of a material that will allow its complete absorption by the respiratory system of the baby in two or three years.

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Prosthetics: from one side to an arm printed in 3D

Accidents happen every day, and no one is safe, it can happen to anyone. And when something like that happens, we should not only think about the damage to health, but also the amount of money and time needed for recovery, when it is possible. Many people urgently need different types of prostheses, but unfortunately not all of them can afford them. Thanks to 3D printing healthcare applications, orthopedics is moving towards greater speed in production processes, and lowering costs. This is especially important when we talk about child orthopedics, as the parts have to be replaced as children grow, as it facilitates the process of creating these pieces, while reducing the economic effort to replace them when they are needed.

And not only humans can benefit from these prostheses … since a lucky duck has managed to walk and swim thanks to this advance, and an eagle victim of a shot could recover its peak, although in the latter case, there were problems in the anchorage and He released In this way, also a 4-month-old kitten get custom prosthetics in Denver recently and although the need for further research continues, the potential benefit of this technology for wildlife is revealed, and not so wild.

The bionic ear

Although it looks like the title of a science fiction film, it is the result of uniting the work of several researchers from Princeton and John Hopkins Hospital, and it means a step forward for the deaf.

Although we have been talking about the possibility of printing using living cells for months, this is a step forward. It is a totally artificial ear, consisting of electronic devices, housed in a bionic structure: a three-dimensional structure in the form of a skeleton, with cartilaginous cells that, 10 weeks later, give rise to a complete ear. It even has an antenna extremely sensitive to microwaves, so this bionic ear could become a satellite finder allowing the human to listen to the radio and other electromagnetic signals. We would only have to provide it with the necessary nutrients for its cells (through vascularization), and after that step, we could also create the skin and place it on a head.

Printing stem cells

Embryonic stem cells are those capable of maintaining their pluripotency, that is, of subsequently generating the characteristics that will differentiate them in any other type of cell (bone, brain, muscle …).

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3D printing healthcare applications has allowed a group of Scottish University Heriot Watt to produce clusters of stem cells. The method used is that of valve-based printing, to maintain these cells at a high level of viability, and to produce uniformly sized spheroids with adequate accuracy, as published in the Biofabrication journal.

On the other hand, it could also be the future of “personalized medicine”. Although the costs of this are still extremely high, but it is hoped that it will be cheap in near future. And finally, it opens the door to the “implantation” in situ of these cells, within the body itself. Decrease rejections associated with organ transplantation, which could save many costs in the future. But we are talking about a far future, because to get (to generate a complete organ) it is necessary to introduce delicate vascular structures inside the organ, to transport the nutrients and eliminate the wastes, in order to assurance the persistence of the same.

Of course, when it comes to working with embryonic stem cells, the ethical factor must be taken into account, On the other hand, once we have the stem cells, they can be replicated in the laboratory indefinitely, which also concern of ethical issues.

There are other ways to approach this biotechnology, for example cells called iPS (induced Pluripotent Stem Cells), which can be generated without destroying human embryos; Are obtained from any cell, such as the skin, and are carried to their embryonic state, in which they cannot be distinguished from embryonic stem cells. But this technology is not so mature and therefore the embryonic ones are still used, although of course, it is still investigated in this to obtain long-term results that do not involve the destruction of embryos.

Another application of this technology would be to introduce, through non-invasive techniques, such as laparoscopy, a micro extruder into the damaged organ, so that it could be regenerated directly, even inside the body.

Creating blood vessels.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have discovered a way to print blood vessels, using sugar as “ink” in a RepRap printer. The researchers published their findings in Nature and summarized the results in a statement.

Rather than attempting to print a large volume of tissue and leave channels in a layer-by-layer approach, the researchers focused on vascularization and designed 3D filament in a vascular system seated in a mold, which allows to remove the template and template once the tissue develops around the filaments. The formula used, a combination of sucrose and glucose with dextran and structural reinforcement, is printed with a RepRap, an open source 3D printer with a specially designed extruder and control software. An important step in the stabilization of the sugar stencils is the application of a thin film of degradable polymer derived from corn. This coating allows the sugar template to be dissolved and leave the gel through the channels, without inhibiting the solidification thereof or damaging the surrounding cells. Once the sugar is removed, researchers begin to let a fluid flow through the vascular structure and the cells begin to receive nutrients and oxygen in a similar way to what happens in nature.

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A new skin, 3D printing healthcare applications

Skin grafts have long been part of medical treatments, while being extremely painful, as fragments of healthy skin are collected to cover a damaged area of ​​the body. Four students from the University of Leiden (The Netherlands) have developed a process, combining a 3D printer and the technology we mentioned before, induced stem cells (iPS) that allow to create stem cells from already differentiated cells. As induced stem cells develop from the patient’s own cells, the immune system responses to the new tissue to receive that. The importance of this discovery lies mainly in the treatment of large wounds, given the difficulty of finding skin grafts of certain sizes.

Organs printed in 3D

As you already read somewhat above, the impression of liver cells is already being carried out and investigated for drug experimentation. Although we also say that this objective would be feasible in the long term, progress is already being made in that direction.

Surgeon Anthony Atala showed in a TED talk in 2011 an experiment in which a prototype of a human kidney, capable of producing a substance similar to urine, was printed. The Wake Forest Institute works specifically in regenerative medicine, with different types of tissues: bladder, cartilage, trachea, heart, etc.

In the line of the liver print mentioned above, the company Organovo located in San Diego, already tries to create these organs in miniature version, with a thickness of only half a millimeter and 4 millimeters in width. Because the functionality of liver cells depends on their arrangement, this experiment is important in the future to create structures of similar sizes to the human liver, including the networks of vessels needed to nourish them.

organovo 3D-Bioprinter

In the article you will able to find that some of the 3D printing healthcare applications that are included here, already are in real world. And are so viable that they have going to be implanted in hospitals, institutes and clinics around the globe.

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