Jan.24, 2014

Dr. Faiz Y. Bhora, director of thoracic surgical oncology at the St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York, hopes to be the first to successfully implant 3D-printed tracheas in human patients. Together with his research team, Dr. Bhora hopes to create the first customized trachea engineered without synthetic material.

Dr. Robert Lebovics and Dr. Faiz Bhora are co-directors of the Mount Sinai's Airway Center of New York where they are are currently refining 3D trachea models created completely from biologic material which they hope to use human patients in a few years. Image credit: David Handschuh/New York Daily News

This pioneering work uses a 3D printer to produce tracheas from completely biologic materials primed with stem cells for growth. The hope is that such implants will decrease – or perhaps even eliminate – the need for additional surgeries to remove or replace the implants as the customized trachea would grow along with the patient and never need to be replaced. This would have incredible health benefits – especially for young patients who may grow substantially after receiving an implant.

The trachea is a four-inch tube that starts below the voice box and connects with the bronchi. The research began with printing a 3D silicone model of a trachea, based on data from a CAT scan and printed on a Fab@Home3D printer in about about 15 minutes.

Today, Dr. Bhora and his team use a biological gel solution to create a 3D airway. Next, stem cells are incorporated or embedded which then differentiate into cartilage – the bulk of what the trachea is made up of.

It takes about 15 mins to make a silicone model of a trachea on a 3D printer. Image credit: David Handschuh/New York Daily News

According to Bhora, windpipe transplants are nearly impossible for people with inhalation burns, stenosis, or lung disease: only a few case studies have been reported worldwide, and many of those patients died soon after their transplant. A tracheotomy is another option for patients with respiratory tract problems; in this case, a breathing tube is inserted which leaves patients unable to talk and runs a high risk of infection.

Managing the body's immune response to the new organ is the primary challenge in any organ transplant – as the body regards the new organ as a foreign object which should be rejected. Trachea transplants are especially complicated as the implant is constantly exposed to harmful organisms due to normal breathing.

An organ created from a person's own cells – like the bioengineered tracheas – would help lower the risk of rejection and allow the new organ to last much longer."There is no good solution currently if one has to replace or transplant a large segment of the airway... So in the last couple of years, we're trying to come up with a solution for these very difficult patients who really don't have significant options," says Dr. Bhora.

So far, the research team led by Dr. Bhora has seen success with implanting a 3D-printed trachea segment into a pig: it is still thriving three months after the implant. The trachea also appears to be growing along with the pig which is a promising sign for doctors who hope to eventually be able to use bioengineered organs in children born without windpipes or who have other airway defects.

Doctors around the world are busy testing the uses of 3D printing in biomedical applications – such as in the field of tissue engineering where 3D printing has already been used to make a specially-design bioreabsorbable tracheal splint which successfully kept a baby's airway from collapsing.

Dr. Bhora hopes that his team's research will progress enough to be able to implant the first 3D-printed tracheas in humans within a few years: "We still need to work on ways to impregnate [the 3D printed airway] with stem cells that will reliably reproduce." He also expressed his general appreciation for the possibilities offered by new technology in biomedical applications. Dr. Bhora predicts that years from now, it is possible that desperately-needed transplant organs won't come from a human donor, but from a 3D printer.

Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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alvaro wrote at 1/25/2014 1:49:07 AM:

It will works !

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