Doctors in the US have recently shown what a big role 3D printing technology can play in customizing medical care. Using this modern-day technology, they turned powdered plastic into small devices and saved lives of as many as three babies. The 3D-printed structures helped the doctors to hold open the defective airways of the babies and allowed them to breathe properly; what’s more, the implants have even expanded as the little ones grew bigger.
The experimental windpipe splints used for treating the babies come with the ability to change their shape over time. According to the researchers, this feature of the devices adds a fourth dimension to them, which ensures that initially the implants would grow with the growing body of the kids and later, when not required any longer, they would dissolve harmlessly.
Dr. Glen Green, the head of the research team responsible for creating these amazing 3D printed implants and a pediatric ENT (ear, nose & throat) specialist representing the University of Michigan, said that he and his team are using laser light for converting powdered plastic into medical devices that are capable of changing how our body develops. Dr. Green added that the concept their work is based on was something inconceivable even a few years back.
For those who don’t know: Dr. Green’s team first hit the headlines a couple of years back after achieving success in treating Kaiba Gionfriddo, a baby diagnosed with severe tracheobronchomalacia (TBM), with 3D printed implants. TBM is a congenital condition characterized by collapsing of the baby’s windpipe, which in turn blocks airflow into his or her body.
Dr. Green and his colleagues have installed similar implants into a couple of other youngsters recently with satisfactory results.
In addition, long-term tests conducted on Kaiba, who is now a healthy 3-year-old kid, has also proved that the 3D printed implant has performed its job perfectly; Kaiba appears to have recovered fully as the splint has already started dissolving.
More tests will be conducted before making these implants a part of mainstream treatment procedures. Right now, the team under Dr. Green is working with the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for initiating a clinical trial of the 3D printed devices on 30 kids diagnosed with similar health problems.