Summarized: The 3D-printing Medical Achievements of the Past Year

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As we all probably know by now, additive manufacturing has given us an extraordinary opportunity to create things that have previously been impossible to manufacture. One of the more interesting applications for this technology is medicine. Here is an extract of the last year’s achievements for you:

For starters, researchers at Princeton University have developed a proof of concept for a 3D-printed bionic ear. The outcome of the research is an ear which can pick up enhanced radio frequency reception. If you pair up a left ear with a right one you can listen to stereo music. The ear interweaves biological tissue with the electronics and has the potential to work even better than their natural human counterparts.

In March, surgeons at the University of Michigan’s C.S Mott Children’s Hospital implanted 3D-printed splints to open up the airways of an 18 month old baby. This is one of very few occasions in the short history of additive manufacturing the technology has been used to save a life, but it is just the beginning. What is more, over the coming period of three years the splint will become reabsorbed by the body of the tiny patient.

In April, Qmed brought us the news of a Dutch woman receiving a new skull created by additive manufacturing. She suffered from a condition making her skull thicken three times and creating deadly pressure on the brain. There has previously been no effective treatment for patients with the condition and this was the second case this year somebody’s life was saved by 3D-printing.

In July, The Guardian reported that in a major medical breakthrough, researchers from Sydney and Harvard universities have managed to 3D bio-print capillaries, the tiny channels that allow vascularisation to take place so that cells can sustain themselves and survive. Additionally, this August, Business Insider reported that doctors in Beijing have performed the world’s first surgery using a 3D printed vertebra. The procedure was done in the neck of a 12-year-old boy who had developed cancer.

In September, Computer World told us the story of a partnership between University of Toronto and MaRS Innovations. These players have created a 3D-printer which can use a patient’s own cells to print a new skin for transplant, and it has all features of a natural human skin.

In November, CNN Money reported that the California-based biotech firm Organovo is very soon set to begin selling 3D-printed liver tissue. Although the company cannot yet print a functioning liver, this accomplishment is very impressive. It will bring new ways to scientists of conducting research and within five years time the creators expect small parts or organs beeing replaced with help of the technology.

Well, these were some of the many achievements within this exiting field that were reached this year. The progress is ongoing, and hopefully 2015 will become an even more impressive one.

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