Nov 7, 2016 | By Alec

Though 3D printed medical devices often play a very important medical role and can greatly improve the lives of patients of all ages, they usually also have an additional role in young patients: to restore some of their confidence and help them live a life that is as normal as possible. A 3D printed hand prosthesis can quickly make a boy without a hand cooler than his classmates, and do wonders for his self-esteem. UNYQ is now doing the same for young girls and teenagers suffering from scoliosis. While common braces tend to look hideous and destroy any opportunity to feel good about their own appearance, UNYQ’s very stylish 3D printed brace can complete a fashionable look rather than detract from it.

As you might know, scoliosis is a relatively common affliction—affecting about 3 out of every 100 people in the world. That might sound like far more than you previously thought, but that’s because this spinal deformation comes in various degrees of severity. When particularly severe, scoliosis can result in an ‘S’ or ‘C’ shaped spine that causes extensive backpain, a very obvious crooked back and even in the inability to move properly. While it affects men and women equally, the more severe cases tend to be found women and usually start during their teen years – the years during which they are most conscious about their appearance anyway.

While minor cases of scoliosis tend to go untreated and unnoticed (simply causing the person minor discomfort), severe cases are faced with significant treatment procedures as the only way to reach a normal posture. Traditional treatment includes physical therapy, bracing, casting, and in the most extreme cases surgery. Bracing, one of the more common treatments, is used to keep the spine in its place, and can even gradually reduce the degree of curvature. Of course, the quality and accuracy of the brace, as well as the ability to adjust the brace is paramount to a proper treatment.

That is, in a nutshell, exactly what UNYQ is seeking to provide to young girls with scoliosis. Their lightweight, fashionable and functional UNYQ Align braces are not only customizable and cool, but also ensure a perfect, light fit that doesn’t inhibit breathing at all – thus providing better results and a better look.

UNYQ is a specialist provider of orthopedic and prosthetic products, and actually brought 3D printing pioneer Francis Bitonti onboard for this particular project – which also strongly relies on Intel platforms. “The condition typically develops in 10-15 year olds, occurring equally among both genders,” said UNYQ in a statement. “Young girls, however, are eight times more likely to progress to a curve magnitude that requires treatment.”

While target patients will be very happy with the appearance of these 3D printed braces, doctors will be more pleased with their effectiveness. For braces typically need to be worn for up to 18 hours a day to be truly effective, but many patients struggle to come close to that. They are simply constricting, bulky, and annoying to wear. Through the help of Bitonti, however, this Align brace uses 75 percent less material and looks far less obtrusive while still providing the necessary support.

So far, the patient response has been very positive, and the Align was even showcased at a White House event. “The first patient to try it on was very happy that she could actually bend from her waist when wearing it,” Bitonti said. “Something she had never been able to do before.” The brace is also equipped with Intel data-capturing modules that allow a patient’s spine realignment process to be monitored closely.

Even more remarkable is the fact that this stylish brace actually reached the fashion runways of FashioNXT in Portland in October. “It's not everyday you see a medical device launch at a fashion show,” said Bitonti. “UNYQ AlignTM demonstrates how innovative technologies, designers, and technologists can combine to revolutionize treatment of medical conditions and dramatically improve the lives of the people who rely on assistive devices.”

The Align brace will be made available at a few select US hospitals in early 2017, using a charter program. “It's a momentous step forward and the launching point for further innovation to continuously advance scoliosis treatment,” UNYQ CEO Eythor Bender said. If it catches on, scoliosis might become something that people won’t have to be embarrassed about.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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