You may not associate 3D printing and health – but British scientists have given this technology a new use, and it could revolutionize the health care industry as we know it. By creating replica models of cancerous body parts, doctors can target the tumors, thus providing better cancer treatment.
This emerging technology has already seen 3D printing used in several other areas of the medical field, such as printing hearing aids, prosthetics and dental implants.
3D printing works by printing objects/products in three-dimensional form. It is widely used in a number of industries, including aerospace, automotive, engineering, military, industrial design and architecture.
In the medical field, physicians and researchers use the printer to create customized hip and knee replacements. Dentists use them to create teeth and jaw replicas, along with various dental implants. U.S. scientists have used it to grow human ears from cow cells.
This new discovery uses the 3D printer to print ‘phantoms’ of organs and tumors based on patients’ CT scans during treatment. The plastic molds are filled with liquid, allowing researches and physicans to see the flow of the radiopharmaceuticals.
These are drugs that contain radioactive material; they can be injected into a vein, placed in a body cavity or taken orally. The challenge with radiopharmaceuticals is that the dose needs to be high enough to kill the cancer cells, but not so high that it causes excessive damage to healthy tissue. It can be a challenge to find the right balance of the drug for each individual patient. 3D printing and health care professionals can help change that.
Researchers in London’s Institute of Cancer Research believe that this modeling will benefit doctors by allowing them to provide more accurate dosing for patients, giving them a much more personalized treatment plan.
These drugs are used to treat a variety of tumors, including tumors that have spread into the bones, thyroid cancer and cancers that involve nerve cells in children.
The London team of researchers used a Stratasys 3D printer, which is a leading supplier of high-end machines. In October of this year, the Stratasys leadership team revealed that the 3D-printing market was expected to rise globally, from $3 billion in 2013 to more than $21 billion by the year 2020.
3D printing and health care will continue to benefit one another, providing patients with various health conditions the treatment, medication and medical devices they need in order to recover quickly. Doctors and researchers can use 3D printing to create a variety of products that will benefit patients as much as possible.
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