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First 3D Laser Printed Jaw Transplanted

First 3D Laser Printed Jaw Transplanted

Doctors transplant worlds first 3D laser printed jaw bone…

Belgian doctors have successfully transplanted a 3D printed jawbone to an 83-year woman. The operation marks the first of its kind and could pave the way for the use of more 3D-printed patient-specific parts.

The transplant was carried out in June in the Netherlands, but details of the operation have only just been made public.

Developed by metal-part manufacturer LayerWise, the technology is the result of extensive work from researchers at the Biomedical Research Institute at Hasselt University in Belgium.

The patient involved had developed a chronic bone infection but doctors worried that reconstructive surgery could be risky so they opted for the new technology.

The jaw was printed using a laser beam that melts thin layers of titanium powder together. The layers are so thin it takes 33 just make up 1mm of height, and although it takes thousands of layers to print the jaw bone, the precise process allows the printer to create intricate models with articulated joints, cavities to promote muscle attachment and grooves to direct the regrowth of nerves and veins.

3d laser printed jawbone First 3D Laser Printed Jaw Transplanted

Worlds First 3D Laser Printed Jawbone Transplant

Despite the huge number of layers need to create the part, it only took a few hours to print once designed.

After printing the part was given a bioceramic coating. It was then implanted into the patient in a four-hour operation – almost a fifth of the time required for traditional reconstructive surgery.

Results were immediately apparent following the surgery, and the women was able to return home after just four days. Dr. Jules Poukens from Hasselt University, who led the surgical team, said:

“Shortly after waking up from the anesthetics the patient spoke a few words, and the day after the patient was able to swallow again.”

The new jaw weighs 107g, around a third heavier than before, however doctors say the woman should find it easy to get used to the extra weight. The patient still requires follow-up surgery to remove healing implants. Afterward she will receive a specially fitted dental bridge, which will allow false teeth to be screwed into the new jaw.

Mr. Ruben Wauthle, LayerWise’s medical applications engineer, told the BBC:

“The advantages are that the surgery time decreases because the implants perfectly fit the patients and hospitalization time also lowers – all reducing medical costs…

“You can build parts that you can’t create using any other technique. For example you can print porous titanium structures which allow bone in-growth and allow a better fixation of the implant, giving it a longer lifetime.”

Other similar research conducted at the Washington State University last year, demonstrated how 3D-printer-created ceramic scaffolds could be used to promote the growth of new bone tissue. They said that experiments on animals suggested the technique could be used in humans within the next couple of decades.

However Wauthle notes there’s still a long way to go:

“There are still big biological and chemical issues to be solved…

“At the moment we use metal powder for printing. To print organic tissue and bone you would need organic material as your ‘ink’. Technically it could be possible – but there is still a long way to go before we’re there.”


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  1. Transplant jaw made by 3D printer claimed as first. BBC, 02/06/2012.

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