This year’s January, chemistry professor Lee Cronin from the University of Glasgow was picked by Science Council as one of the 100 leading practicing scientists in the UK. He was praised for being a “young rising star seeking to understand and control self-assembly and self-organisation in chemistry.” However, this top 100 ranking is not what the world knows him for, since his 3D printed drugs project has made him a one-to-watch. Time to tell you all about this highly innovating, but controversial project.
In 2012, 39-year-old professor Cronin was suddenly in the spotlight because of his ambitious 3D Chemputer project. As ‘Chemputer’ is an amalgamation of ‘chemistry’ and ‘computer’, you can probably imagine the direction of this project. Cronin aims to create a system where people can use an app or website to easily download a file and ‘ink’ for a medicine, after which they will be able to print out the drug at home, using a 3D printer. He’s quite ambitious about it, as the ‘young rising star’ has told The Guardian: “What Apple did for music, I’d like to do for the discovery and distribution of prescription drugs.”
If you are a skier, you will probably know about the long process of getting fitted for a new pair of ski boots. Before a one can buy new ski boots, it very important that the boot insoles match perfectly with the person’s feet. This is not an easy task, as every foot is unique and it therefore often happens that skiers need a professionally measured insole for their skies, which can be very expensive. A new UK start-up has therefore come up with an app that measures the shape of your feet directly from a simple picture taken from your mobile.
It’s definitely an invention in the category ‘what will they think of next’, but ALPrint, the start-up we’re talking about, really claims only a couple of mobile camera pictures are required for them to be able to do the job. The ‘patient’ only needs to print out an easily printable calibration mat, and to stand on this mat whilst taking pictures.
The cure for cancer has not yet been invented, but for the other big death cause, heart disease, there might soon be a way to fight it more effectively. A team at the school of engineering and applied science at Washington University in St. Louis is working on a system to predict a heart attack before a patient even shows any symptoms. Their 3D device will also be used to deliver treatment.
The team, led by Igor Efimov has been using an inexpensive 3D printer to create an implantable device to predict and treat cardiac disorders. They created a 3D plastic membrane consisting of flexible silicon material shaped to fit the heart’s centre of every individual.
At the Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, California, Dr. Darryl D’Lima is working on a bioprinting technique to print living cartilage into the human body. Cartilage is the tissue which cushions knee joints and if it doesn’t regenerate well a lot of pain is caused. When one is having a knee injury doctors advice the person to deal with the pain until an artificial joint has been made. This is a painful and sometimes ineffective way, and D’Lima therefore searches for other ways.
He’s therefore designed a prototype bioprinter to print out living cartilage. Newswebsite redOrbit reports that the professor used a Hewlett-Packard inkjet printer (!) as the basis for its design and as the website reports the bioprinter “spews out both cartilage progenitor cells and a biocompatible liquid that will congeal in the presence of ultraviolet light. In addition, the device can print bone cells necessary to deposit where cartilage attaches to bone.”
The VUmc Cancer Center in Amsterdam has found a new way to improve its radiotherapy process, using 3D printers. The radiotherapy department uses 3D printers to protect the human body whilst undergoing radiation for tumors. Using customized 3D printed filters, the area around the tumor will not unnecessarily be hurt. 3D printed filters have an accuracy of 0.01 mm.
The radiotherapy team uses already available CT scans to provide for the 3D data, after which the data can be transferred into customized protection models. The models will fit better to the human skin and offer a better protection against radiation. A patient will not need to make an additional appointment for such a CT scan and with an accuracy of 0.01 mm these 3D printed models are much more accurate than their ‘old fashioned’ counterparts.
A man who has lost half his pelvis to bone cancer can be relieved thanks to 3D printing, as the technique enabled a surgeon to create a complete new pelvis for the patient. The doctor, Craig Gerrand, used 3D printing as well as scanning techniques in order to perform what appears to be the first transplant of its kind. In three years time, the patient – a man in his 60s – will even be capable of walking again using a stick.
The patient was unlucky to get a rare bone cancer called chondrosarcoma, and unfortunately radiotherapy and drugs didn’t make the cancer leave. Therefore, the man had to get rid of half his pelvis. Gerrand, who is a consultant orthopedic surgeon working at Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Trust, was searching for ways to get the patient’s pelvis fixed again and he came up with a 3D printing technique.
Doctors have found a new way of using 3D printing techniques in the medical world. They have used it to restore a man’s knee after he got two meniscus tears. The way doctors used to fix such a problem was by cutting the bone in order to make the bones fit. However, 3D printing techniques now enable them to print out a brand new 3D knee.
The company behind this project is called Conformis and it has found a way to 3D print a knee which is more precise and natural compared to a traditional counterpart. Using a patented iFit ConforMIS technique the team was able to come up with implants that could exactly fit the structure of a joint. The team used CT data to convert into such implants. The whole process took less time and the doctors didn’t have to cut into the bone as much as they had to in the past.
US bioprinting company Organovo is working on a project to test drugs directly on 3D printed functional living tissues. With such tissues patient’s treatments will be safer, faster and more effective. In addition, the company announced this week that it partners up with two institutes from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The company collaborates with the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) and the National Eye Institute (NEI) in order to create three-dimensional, architecturally correct, functional living tissues. The team uses an Organovo’s NovoGen MMX Bioprinter® for this project.
The first commercially available 3D printed orthotics are to be launched this week. The Australian company 3D Orthotics has been working on a 3D printing project for 12 months and has now found a way to improve the development process of orthotics, using 3D scanning, computer processing as well as 3D printing.
The reason why 3D Orthotics started the project is that they saw patient’s having problems with feeling uncomfortable with their orthotics. They never really seemed to match the foot perfectly. With 3D printing added to the game, they found a new, more accurate way to create perfectly matching orthotics.
The University of Toronto has partnered up with a hospital from Uganda and an NGO to 3D print prosthetics in order to speed up the process of helping Ugandan people who’ve lost a limb. 3D printing makes it easier to create high quality prosthetic limbs.
Professor Matt with a traditional prosthesis (left) and a 3D printed one (right). Credits: Ginger Coons.
With the methods of today, it can take several days to weeks until a prosthesis is available for the patient. However, many patients don’t have the financial resources to wait in a hospital for a longer time. In addition, today a specialized technician is still needed to create the prosthetics, while there aren’t enough technicians in developing countries like Uganda. Because 3D printers have become faster and cheaper to produce, using this technique now seems like the perfect next step for the researchers.