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How 3D Printed Body Parts Will Change Medicine

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How 3D Printed Body Parts Will Change Medicine

VisMed3D has strived to push the boundaries of 3D Printing, constantly trying to find new, innovative applications of this new type of technology. During our session at Chicago Ideas Week, “VisMed3D’s Print Your Own Body Part”, we learned how this exciting technology can be used to print, just that, your own body part and how this has the ability to change the way sports injuries are treated. At Chicago Ideas Week, our CEO and Co-Founder, Dima Elissa showed how this was possible, through a hands-on demonstration of our facility’s cutting-edge technology and its many applications. Our aim is to “demystify 3D Printing technology and capability,” Elissa says. “One of the things we want to do is set [a level of] understanding of what 3D Printing is, what it isn’t – essentially what’s possible today, what’s unrealistic today, and what is highly possible for the future.” At CIW, we established that 3D printing nanostructure, printing pills with personalizing dosages, and printing body parts are all within the capabilities of 3D printing. All of these applications of 3D printed technologies have the ability to change such treatment in three significant ways: aiding in preventative health measures, reducing OR time, and replacing body parts.

Utilizing current technology (MRI and CAT scans), VisMed3D is able to obtain digital files of body parts from external scans that we can then manipulate via software. These manipulations allow us to complete  various analysis tests – human factor, biomechanics, etc. – which allow us to customize, design, and print devices that optimize comfort and adaptations for the body part. A very clear application of this type of technology would be to produce more effective protective gear for all athletes for all body parts “especially as it relates to the headgear,” Elissa noted. “If we can help to design a better, lighter weight, more resilient sports protective device – that’s really an area that [could] see tremendous new hybrid materials coming on board, merging carbon fibers and various nylons, will produce a variety of different executions.”

With this very same technology, 3D printing has the ability to reduce time spent in the OR. People, especially athletes, are consistently at risk for injuries ranging from mild to severe. Our goal is to make every aspect of treatment more efficient. Using previously described technologies, VisMed3D has the ability to 3D print models of scanned body parts – which doctors can use to prepare for each unique patient’s procedure. “This gives doctors a really intimate look at what they’re about to dive into on the table before they get in there and do all of that discovery work,” Elissa said. “It’s a tremendously valuable tool that is already demonstrating a return on investment from the standpoint of reduced OR time, higher utilization of facilities, reduced errors, and better patient outcome.”

Someday in the near future, this technology, will be able to print off sterile, biocompatible replacements for damaged body parts, however, science is not there just yet. For athletes with torn ACLs or similar injuries, 3D printing technologies have the potential to print a brand new ACL that can be surgically implanted, rather than waiting for the torn ligament to heal and reform on its own. This reduces the necessary recovery time and lets athletes return to the game much sooner than expected. This seemingly impossible feat was accomplished at Columbia University, where doctors were able to repair the meniscus of a goat with a 3D printed implant. Through the infusion of the printed part with human growth factors, the doctors were able to promote regeneration of the lining by the body.

With the help of this inventive technology, VisMed3D wants to revolutionize treatment procedures in medical facilities for all patients, not just athletes. While our aim is to help doctors and patients alike, we see a specific application of 3D printing and its capabilities in preventative medicine, as well as, injury treatment for athletes. Through its ability to digitally model, and either conduct analysis tests or print off 3D renderings of MRI scans, 3D printing can help create protective gear catered to the physical conditions of a specific athletes features, reduce time for doctors and patients in the OR, and, eventually, allow doctors to replace body parts artificially, rather than waiting on the body’s natural regeneration process.