July 9, 2015 | By Alec

3D printing technology is currently invading medical laboratories all over the world, where they are revolutionizing scientific development. It seems that Japan is no exception in that trend, as a team of researchers from the University of Tsukuba and Dai Nippon Printing Co.,Ltd have just announced that they have successful 3D printed a liver model, with the internal blood vessels structures clearly visible in side.

To clarify, this interesting development doesn’t involve bioprinting technology, but could be just as life-saving. If this application can be customized for each individual patient, these 3D printed liver replicas can play a crucial role in preparing specific surgeries and treatment for each of them. The models themselves are 3D printed by relying on medical data from CT scans and others. With the complete shape of the liver clearly visible, the exact details of the internal blood vessels and tumors can be easily studied.

Differences between the 3D printed model (right) and the traditionally produced model are very visible.

So what’s so special about seeing those blood vessels and tumor? That’s because the liver is almost completely hollow, ensuring that all blood vessels can be very easily seen. 3D printed in resin, this is the easiest and cheapest way to develop one of these medical models. While other production methods have been used before, this was much cheaper that the alternatives (about a third cheaper, with the original costs being around 300,000 to 400,000 yen or about $3,000 USD).

According to Japanese media sources, these 3D printed internal organ models are largely used for research purposes only, because the costs involved haven’t yet made it a viable option for clinical use. But the research team argued that they are seeking to realize practical application of the 3D printed model livers by 2016. They will also seek to advance research and development of similar 3D printed models of other organs like the pancreas.

According to Yukio Oshiro, a lecturer at the University of Tsukuba, patients were very enthusiastic about the idea. ‘We showed patients the prototype, and they all praised its usefulness and how easy it was to understand. I think this technology is attractive to medical services, as it can also be a good training tool for young doctors.’


Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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