Three-dimensional Printing Expands Possibilities in Medicine

Scientists have developed new technology that moves beyond traditional two-dimensional analysis of body tissue. They have developed a way to use three-dimensional printing to observe tissues in a new way. The work at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University specifically focuses on renal cells, but there’s no telling where else it could go. It also might help observe brain tissue when there is an insult, or injury, to the brain.

The team of researchers used a customizable, three-dimensional, silicone gasket as a mold. They then pour an engineered extracellular matrix as the base layer. Fugitive ink is printed in the winding, tubular shape that mimics the structure of the natural renal proximal tubules. The fugitive ink is eventually liquefied and removed from the final design. After the fugitive ink is applied, they cover it in another layer of extracellular matrix.

The final design has a hollow channel that mimics real renal proximal tubules. They can put kidney cells into the hollow channel and study the result in a much more realistic way than a two-dimensional model.

The technology reminds me of a study conducted by Brown University that modeled a brain injury in a three-dimensional way. The study uncovered that brain cells begin to die within five to six hours of the initial blow to the head. Dr. Christian Franck was the lead author of this study.

The technology at the Wyss Institute will hopefully be used one day as an implant or an organ-assistive device. It was led by Wyss Institute core faculty Jennifer Lewis Sc.D. The research was published online in the journal Scientific Reports.

The world of three-dimensional printing seems to be revolutionizing medicine, as reported in the New Yorker in 2014. Event then, doctors were using three-dimensional printing to aid in surgical implantation. The field seems both promising and fascinating.

We have used 3D printing in the examination of expert witnesses, to great effect.

To learn more about how the technology developed at the Wyss Institute works, please watch this video:



Gordon Johnson

Attorney Gordon Johnson is one of the nations leading brain injury advocates. He is Past-Chair of the TBILG, a national group of more than 150 brain injury advocates. He has spoken at numerous brain injury seminars and is the author of some of the most read brain injury web pages on the internet.

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