3-D printing has been really popular in the scientific world in the recent months. At first, when I heard about 3-D printing, I was very astonished yet confused about how it actually works. So far in the news, 3-D printers have printed insoles for shoes, pens, toys and in the medical world tv-shows, like Grey’s Anatomy, it has also printed heart vessels for pediatric populations.
But, I recently read about a new invention, a 3-D printed cast that speeds up bone recovery using ultrasound. It uses low-intensity pulsed ultrasound to speed bone regrowth, because the pulses of sound waves with a very high frequency increases incorporation of calcium ions in cultures of cartilage and bone cells, while increasing the gene expression that assist in healing. It is still a vitro-study, but clinical trials are underway.
On a more serious note, doctors in Holland, have successfully performed the first surgery to completely replace a a patient’s skull with a plastic version that was printed in 3-D. The patient had chronic bone disorder that caused her skull to be 5 cm thick, due to increased mortality, the patient’s skull was completely replaced and the patient also regained her lost vision due to her previously thickened bones.
Researchers have also batch-3-D-printed up to 150 prosthetic eyes in an hour, but also with a slight variation in color. Other researchers are developing a printer that will print skin straight onto the wounds of burn victims. The ink that they will use consists of enzymes and collagen with tissue cells and skin cells to produce the skin draft. Moreover, another team is in the process of making 3-D printable hands, arms and individual fingers for those who had amputations.
The world of 3-D printing is just starting, and has already produced magnificent results.