Nov 19, 2015 | By Alec

Though medical 3D printing applications currently mostly involve fantastic 3D printed surgical models of limbs, hearts, brains and even rib cages, a new report from the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mt. Sinai reminds us that a lot more is already possible. They have recently successfully helped give a young boy a new lease on life, after the fourteen-year-old Dalan Jennet from the Marshall Islands in the Pacific received a 3D bioprinted nose implant.

This transplant was desperately needed, as Dalan was robbed of an unworried childhood at the age of nine. Dalan hails from the island of Majuro, a small island part of the Marshall Islands and home to just 30,000 people. Like all the kids of Majuro, he enjoyed climbing trees, playing basketball and making music on his ukulele, but everything went horribly wrong about five years ago. Climbing some trees with friends, he tripped and fell face-first onto a live wire with horrible consequences. Much of his nose and face was immediately burned beyond repair, and doctors were forced to remove what was left of his nose, as well as his toes. He also lost much of his sight in the process.

A dehabilitating condition, Dalan has since withdrawn from life, refuses to attend school and spends most days simply at home on in the garden. Fortunately, over the past year or so things are looking up. With the help of the Marshall Islands’ Ministry of Health, the Micronesian charity Canvasback Missions and Mentor Worldwide, Dalan was put into contact with Dr. Tal Dagan of the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai, who was confident that 3D printing could be used restore much of the boy’s face.

As the New York City-based doctor explains to CBS, he identified with the plight of the unfortunate boy. ‘He basically stopped going to school and was completely isolated,’ he said. ‘And that's something that I connected with. And said, I think we're going to try to pull this off.’ With the help of bio 3D printing technology, Dagan and his team developed a special 3D printed nose for the young boy. To ensure that this new nose becomes a functional piece of skin, cells from the patient himself were harvested and 3D printed onto a biocompatible gel-like scaffolding and further cultivated in a laboratory.

Back in the Marshall Islands, Dalan meanwhile underwent a preliminary surgery to expand the remaining skin around what was left of his nose, to ensure that the new 3D print could be attached properly. Using laser technology, this scar tissue was converted so that it could line the inside of the new nose once Dalan reached New York – restoring the boy’s sense of smell. ‘This is complete science fiction, Dagan told reporters. ‘You're getting a completely new type of technology.’

Most importantly, the surgery was a complete success, and doctors were even able to restore the boy’s eyesight completely. Dalan went from near legal blindness back to 20/20. Most of the costs for the surgery and the flights to New York were covered by the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai, the charities and the Marshall Islands government. And just two months after the surgery, Dalan is now ready to go back to school and see and smell the world around him again. ‘I like to smell everything,’ he told CBS, adding that he has also fallen in love with American food – especially pepperoni pizza.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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