We previously wrote this article about the use of 3D printing in medicine. Who would have thought less than a year later that we’d be able to tell you that a patient in the Netherlands recently received a transplant replacing 75% of her skull! Pretty incredible stuff.
First, a CAD file (computer aided design) is made by scanning the bone to be replaced to create a structural blueprint of what it should look like. This is then used to make the bone, formed from countless layers of a material called polyetherketoneketone (PEKK), which is unique in that it allows X-rays to pass through it. This means that if the patient ever needs to have any sort of brain scan that this will still be possible, which is not the case when using metal parts. Amazingly, the 3D printed bone is also osteoconductive, meaning that it can be used as a base the body can use to grow new tissue. This way, any transplant can integrate fully into the host’s body.
Personalised medicine really is the future of science, and this is only the beginning. We expect to be seeing a lot more of these sorts of treatments happening all across the world over the next few years.
Who knows in 50 years time how much of our bodies will be grown from scratch, and how much will be synthesised in a lab? Technology film makers in the 80s dreamed about is starting to become a reality. Now where’s my hoverboard?
If you want to learn more about regenerative medicine, you might enjoy this article we wrote about growing lungs in the lab.