Aug 22, 2016 | By Tess

A team of scientists from the Autonomous University of the State of Morelos (UAEM) in Mexico has developed a device that could help lessen the effects of microcephaly in unborn fetuses. The device, a micro valve which allows excess cerebrospinal fluid to be released from the brain, was prototyped and developed with the help of 3D printing technologies.

Microcephaly, for those unfamiliar, is a medical condition in which a fetus’ brain cannot properly develop which results in a smaller, often misshapen head. The condition, which has recently been linked to the Zika virus, is often present at birth or appears within the first few years of a child’s life and can lead to such symptoms as intellectual disability, poor motor and speech functions, seizures, and dwarfism. Among other causes for the condition is the excess of cerebrospinal fluids in the skull, which can deform and impact the fetus’ head.

To lessen the effects of Microcephaly caused by excess cerebrospinal fluids, the team of scientists from UAEM designed an innovative microvalve that could effectively drain some of the fluid. As Dr. Said Robles Casolco, who works at the Center for Research in Engineering and Applied Sciences at UAEM, explains, if a fetus is diagnosed with Microcephaly (a diagnosis which can usually be made 8 months into the gestation period) the valve, 3D printed from a biocompatible material, can be implanted into the fetus’ skull through a small incision.

Once inserted, the 3D printed microvalve functions solely to release excess cerebrospinal fluid in order to decrease pressure on the brain caused by the excess fluids, thus allowing it to develop more normally. While the valve may not eliminate Microcephaly altogether, it can help to reduce the seriousness of the condition and allow the baby to have fewer developmental problems. As Dr. Said Robles explains, “It should be noted that this valve does not solve Microcephaly, but it will help this congenital disease to not fully develop.”

Of course, cerebrospinal fluid is also an essential part of the fetus’ development as it functions  as a sort of buffer for the brain’s cortex, so the 3D printed valve is specially designed to only release excess fluid, and not all the fluid altogether. That is, the device is engineered to keep out air and other substances (keeping the brain protected), while also only releasing necessary amount of fluid through a system which keeps the growth process in proportion to liquid release.

Currently, the 3D printed microvalve is still in its prototyping stage as the team of scientists are in the process of patenting their valve mechanism. While there is no word yet on how much such a device could cost patients, the researchers intend to keep it accessible. If all goes well in the final prototyping stages, the innovative medical device would be viable as early as 2017.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Surgeries of the skull wrote at 9/7/2016 12:37:04 AM:

This is not entirely true . Far from saving lives, these holes only prolong the agony.

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