It seems like the applications for 3D printing are endless. If you do a quick online search, you’ll see them being used to print everything from sea shells to synthetic meat to primitive guns. Now there’s been another breakthrough that could really put 3D printing on the map: custom-made, biodegradable medical implants.
20-month-old Kaiba Gionfriddo was born with a rare, life-threatening condition called tracheobronchomalacia. The main arteries to his heart and lungs were misplaced, squeezing his windpipe and constricting his breathing. His family wasn’t aware anything was wrong until one day the infant collapsed and turned blue on a family outing. After that, he would stop breathing and need to be resuscitated on a daily basis.
Once Kaiba was checked into the hospital, doctors told his mother, April, that he might not leave alive. Luckily, researchers at the University of Michigan had been working on an experimental new treatment and this was the perfect chance to test it in action.
Using a 3D printer, doctors created a biodegradable plastic implant and surgically placed it into Kaiba’s chest to keep his airway open. Three weeks later, he was off the ventilator and hasn’t had a relapse sense. Most children grow out of the condition by age 2 or 3, about the same amount of time it will take the implant to be naturally absorbed into Kaiba’s body.
A paper about the experimental treatment, which took place in February 2012, was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Check out this video to see Kaiba (now healthy and happy) with his parents as they discuss his treatment:
Photo credit: Youtube