Today, people can print almost anything using a 3D printer. What about their use in the medical field? It turns out that a 3D printer is capable of more than you may think. Read how scientists returned hearing to a person, printed an implant of nerve cells and a cornea of the eye using a 3D printer.
Doctors from South Africa conducted a surgery which has no analogs in the world yet. They returned the hearing to a 40-year-old patient by installing an implant printed on a 3D printer, the shape of which corresponded to the shape of the bones of the middle ear.
The operation was performed at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital. The team of surgeons was led by Professor Mashudu Tshifularo. The patient was Thabo Moshiliwa, who was injured and had the bones of his middle ear destroyed and lost his hearing.
Professor Shifularo decided to use a three-dimensional printer to create a complex of middle ear bones – a hammer, an anvil, stapes – which were identical to the bones of the patient in terms of weight and size. Titanium was used to create the implant. The operation was carried out by using the endoscopic method – the injury was minimal, and the operation itself took only an hour and a half.
The Implant of Nerve Cells
Scientists from the University of Minnesota have developed a technology that may be used to treat patients with spinal injuries. Unlike the developments of Sergio Canaveral, who has been claiming for years that he can transplant the human head and has already learned how to connect the nerve endings to each other, this development is quite real. Using a three-dimensional printer, they learned how to create implants containing nerve stem cells. Blocks printed this way can be installed in the injury site: as a result, new connections between the preserved fragments of nerve endings will be formed there, which will allow for the restoration of some motor functions.
The authors used induced pluripotent stem cells to create implants, which were later transformed into neuronal stem cells. They, together with the silicone matrix, are part of the implant.
Michael McAlpine, a member of the research team, explains that for the first time they managed to create something using three-dimensional printing using stem nerve cells. Working with such cells was not easy, he notes. The main difficulty was to maintain cell viability – they managed to keep about 75% of neurons alive.
The development has not yet been tested on humans and animals, but during laboratory studies, it was shown that the installation of such implants can actually stimulate the growth of neurons at the site of damage, which means that the function in injured patients can be partially restored.
About 10 million people in the world need surgical intervention to prevent the development of corneal blindness caused, for example, by infectious diseases. Nearly five million more people have been blind because of the scars on the cornea caused by burns, injuries or illnesses. Scientists from Newcastle University printed the cornea for the first time on a 3D printer, proving that this is possible, which means that in the future it will be possible to establish an uninterrupted printing of new corneas for those who need their transplantation.
Printer ink consists of donor cells taken from a healthy cornea, as well as collagen and alginates. From all this, a solution is created which is used for printing. The printing time is less than 10 minutes.
Scanning the patient’s eyes will help you print out the cornea that suits a particular person in shape and size. Now the new technology will be tested, checking its safety, which will take several years – and then, perhaps, it will become much easier to transplant the cornea.