For the first time, medical researchers used a 3D-printed airway splint to help save the life of a baby with a disorder that caused him to stop breathing every day.
When the parents of now-20-month-old Kaiba Gionfriddo learned their son had a disorder that made his airways vulnerable to collapse, doctors referred them to University of Michigan researchers working on a highly experimental treatment using 3D bioprinters.
The researchers had been developing a way to print an airway splint made of a biopolymer that could be absorbed into the body over time. They printed a customized splint to sew around Kaiba's airway, holding open the bronchus to help it grow properly.
"It was amazing. As soon as the splint was put in, the lungs started going up and down for the first time and we knew he was going to be OK." Dr. Glenn Green, University of Michigan
Green and his fellow researcher Scott Hollister created the splint from a CT scan of the baby's trachea and bronchus, which was used to form a computerized model of the airways. Laser-based 3D printing helped create a highly precise, real-life replica.
The technology used to create Kaiba's airway splint is being further developed—in pre-clinical models, Green and Hollister have used the technology to create customized ear, nose and bone structures.
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