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3D Printing In Medical: Maybe We Don't Need Living Organs Anymore

Apr 07, 2019

If you want to ask what is the most widely used 3D printing in the medical industry, then it is natural to count limbs and organs.

3d printing in medcial

In the human body, the most replaceable nature is the limbs, teeth, and the like. The main functions of these parts help people's actions and lives, and their functions are single, so the structure is relatively simple. Moreover, the incompleteness of the limbs theoretically hardly has a significant impact on human life. Therefore, prosthetic and dentures are common, and once 3D printing technology appears, it is naturally applied to this field.


Currently in life, 3D printing prosthetic technology is very mature and has been widely used. A girl in England has a 3D palm, a migrant worker has a skull, and even the Australian company CSIRO can tailor a titanium sternum and ribs to create a 3D chest.


A recent study also showed us the possibility of combining AI and 3D printing. A team of researchers at the University of California at Berkeley and the Shuliwell Dental Laboratory built a Universal Confrontation Network (GAN) to automatically generate new crown designs. It predicts the shape of the new crown based on a scan of missing teeth. First, the side of the mandible missing tooth is scanned to produce a 2D image. Next, the opposite side of the jaws are also scanned. GAN understands the distance between the missing teeth and fills the gap in 3D with a new crown design.

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It can be expected that with the accuracy of GAN modeling, future 3D printing will be more in line with human physiological characteristics and functional orientation. For example, the problem of receiving the cavity can be better solved, so that the installation of the prosthesis is more comfortable.


If the printing of limbs, teeth, etc. is easy, then the 3D printing organ may be hard. And related research is also being carried out in an orderly manner.


The difficulty of 3D printing organs is due to the large number of blood vessels inside them, and the organization of each organ is also different. For example, the brain is mainly composed of a large number of nerve tissues. There are still major technical difficulties in achieving printing and cultivating of nerve tissues.


But the good news is that 3D liver has been printed and survived. The American biotechnology company Organovo has used cell 3D printing technology to print the cell tissue needed by the liver in the cell culture chamber. After being cultured in a vessel, it can be grown into a normal shaped liver and transplanted to the human body. However, the cells of this liver lose their activity after being printed and become dead cells.

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In addition to the liver, organs such as the kidneys and pancreas are also being studied. Researchers generally believe that it takes at least 10 years to achieve truly functional and portable 3D printed organs. For the development of human organ transplantation, 10 years is not long, but not too short. Once this technology becomes a reality, the changes it brings will be revolutionary: people who need surgery will not have to die desperately because they can't wait for living organs, and organs will become commodities that can be mass-produced. It will have a positive impact on solving the shortage of living organs, prolonging human life, and even creating a new industrial chain of organ supply.


Surgery can come back: from "one-off" to "repetitive"


3D printing Another application that has an absolute advantage in the medical field is assisted surgery.


Surgery is a highly risky task, especially for the internal processing of internal organs such as internal organs. For thousands of years, doctors have been tirelessly pursuing how to improve the success rate of surgery and improve the quality of life of patients.


Initially, when there is no visual medical device, if doctors have a problem with a certain part, they can only open the body first, then explore the location of the lesion and perform the operation. In this process, doctors rely on their accumulated experience to accurately locate. However, the human body is different. Under the support of instruments and electronic equipment, doctors can determine the lesions through technical means before the operation. The accuracy of the surgery is greatly improved compared with the experience.


Whether it's the initial "single-knife straight" or visual device blessing, surgery has one distinct feature: one-off.


With the advent of 3D printing technology, surgery has begun to have another feature: repeatability.


Surgeons in the Northwest Community Medical Center in Chicago recently performed surgery on a brain tumor patient, which is the 3D technology. In general, the details of the brain cannot be seen with the naked eye, which adds a lot of risk to the removal of brain tumors. After the brain was scanned and the tumor location was determined, the doctors established a 3D brain patient model. Then, through this model, doctors can see other areas of the brain other than tumors, and know the entire area of surgery. Most importantly, through the construction of the brain model, they can perform multiple simulation exercises before the actual surgery to deal with any possible emergencies while avoiding touching the healthy areas of the brain that may be accidentally injured. .


China has also made technological breakthroughs in surgery in 3D printing applications. Last month, the Cardiovascular Center of the Second Affiliated Hospital of Nanjing Medical University used the technology of 3D printed heart to replicate the heart of a heart patient, discovering the complex vascular structure in the heart and simulating different surgical procedures. Finally, the best surgical plan was developed and proceeded smoothly.


Then, when the surgery changes from "one hammer to the sound" to a re-testable medical means, it will undoubtedly greatly improve the success rate of surgery and reduce the risk. On the other hand, through the repeated simulation of the surgical procedure, the doctor's operational proficiency will also increase, the operation time will be greatly shortened, and the patient will also avoid suffering from longer operation.


Crossing the hills, you need to go windward


In addition, 3D printing technology will even be used in the pharmaceutical industry to achieve the possibility of patients printing drugs on demand; making rehabilitation equipment such as orthopedic insoles, hearing aids; printing implants such as bones. It can be said that 3D printing technology is affecting the direction of the medical industry in all aspects.


However, 3D medical treatment is not perfect, and there are still several problems in its promotion.


1. Material problems. In previous surgical cases, there were often problems with implants in the body that caused the patient to suffer secondary pain, or problems with the implant, or damage to the human body caused by the implant. Then, as an emerging technology, 3D printing technology must also consider this issue. If it's just for printing, it might be a little small for it. If it can explore materials that are more suitable for the human body, it will also become an important part of the fate of technology.


2. Commercialization promotion issues. If a technology is just a vase, its fate must be long-lasting. Then, for 3D printing, it still exists in some hospitals with strong financial strength. The average 3D printing equipment on the market is hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the cost of equipment in hospitals with higher precision requirements is higher. For example, the medical requirements for the accuracy of 3D printing, the blood vessels on the 3D liver printed by a Japanese manufacturer are clearly visible, and the equipment that achieves such precision is generally unacceptable to hospitals. Therefore, strengthening the research and development of technology and reducing equipment costs may be the key factors for its rapid sinking promotion.


3. Print the kinetic energy of the organ. At present, although a short-lived liver can be created by superimposing cells, it is not a function that does not mean that it has liver function. In fact, the environment such as utensils is incomparable to the human body, so there will be differences in pharmacological testing. In addition, how to make blood vessels that transport oxygen and nutrients remains a problem. If this problem is not solved, the cells will not survive for a long time. In addition, this 3D printing organ will also face the problem of human body rejection in the future. Is it better to adapt to the body than the current living organ, or is it not accepted? We are all unknown.

And once an organ is involved, someone will talk about ethical issues. However, since it is to save lives better, the controversy of this issue should not be particularly fierce.


3D printing is still a new thing for the medical industry. We have found that whenever a new technology is created, the medical industry can't wait to try it. This aspect reflects the diversity and complexity of medical issues, and on the other hand reflects human respect and awe of life. And this respect for life will also become an inexhaustible motive force for medical practitioners to use technology to cross the hills.