While 3-D printing is servings passion and production, it is set to make essential breakthrough in medical science as well.
For the followers of Grey’s Anatomy, this might not look like a novel idea. Meredith Grey and Christina Yang both tried their hand at 3-D printing human organs to replace failing ones through science, and Yang boasted immense success at Grey-Sloan Memorial. Real-life surgery, nonetheless, was still groping to find success in 3-D implantation, until Kaiba’s experimental surgery came along.
In 2012, Kaiba Gionfriddo was born with tracheomalacia, which involves a tracheal duct to collapse periodically, making it difficult to breath. Congenital tracheomalacia, which Kaiba’s condition is called, typically heals on its own by 18 – 24 months. But Kaiba’s case was different:his ailment was so acute that the walls of the wind pipe would collapse upon themselves for long periods, completely constricting the flow of air. He was expected to not survive at all.
That is when a team of engineers from University of Michigan came to the rescue. Using a CAT scan, the engineers modeled a trachea and bronchi system that was 3-D printed. A biodegradable, non-toxic polymer was used to print a good fit for Kaiba, which was then surgically inserted into his body.
Kaiba’s case was the first ever 3-D implantation taken up by the Michigan engineers. Before this, they had regularly experimented with 3-D printing human organs, but never used them on patients.
Kaiba was closely monitored after the surgery. He was put off his ventilator 3 weeks after, and the doctors were able to determine the workability of the splint even after it biodegraded.
The Independent says, “His biodegradable implant has been partially re-absorbed by his body meaning that he no longer has to rely on it completely for breathing.”
“These cases broke new ground for us because we were able to use 3D printing to design a device that successfully restored patients’ breathing through a procedure that had never been done before,” says Dr Glen Green, who was part of the team that performed this unique procedure at the C S Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Along side Kaiba, two other babies Garrett and Ian also received the same implantation and are currently under observation as they age. But 3 years on, Kaiba has been pronounced essentially cured, and can be spotted playing around in his pre-school. “We report that this engineering design has worked as intended and that the first [patient] to receive this implant three years ago appears to be cured of tracheobronchomalacia with the splint that has not functionally degraded,” said Green.
This breakthrough is an essential first step towards successful employment of 3-D printed parts in the human body. With more research, we can hope that one day, the feats portrayed at the fictional Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital will find their place in real life. It shall definitely be “a beautiful day to save lives.”