Last Friday a 3D printer for cartilage implants was put into practice in the VU medical centre in Amsterdam. The machine has been specially designed to produce models of living cells and biomaterials. From now on, customised cartilage ears and noses can be manufactured for each patient.
The implants are made from a mixture of plastic and patient stem cells which are printed in the shape of the missing body part. After implantation, the synthetic material is gradually replaced by chondrocytes, cartilage-producing cells which derived from the stem cells. This way, the patient comes into the possession of a new ear or nose their own cells. However, it may take around five years until the first patients receive the implant, because it is still difficult to model the new grown cartilage into the right shape.
The 3D printer was purchased in collaboration with the 3D Innovation Lab VUmc and several sponsors. After one year of testing the device, scientists and doctors of the VUmc are now ready to finally implement the manufactured implants in patients. Plastic surgeon Paul van Zuijlen says: “In the end, we hope to offer personalised solutions for patients with mutilated ears or noses. Naturally, the printer can also be used in other fields of research to fix injuries.”
The plastic surgeons are not the first group of the VUmc to use a 3D printer. Instead of making implants, the orthopaedic and orthognathic surgery departments are printing gypseous bone models to visualise and prepare for complicated surgeries. Furthermore, ophthalmology, radiology and radiotherapy researchers are exploring the possibilities of the 3D printer in their fields.
Sources: VUmc and Medisch Contact
MedZine writes about notable science twice a week.