Breakthrough in Medical Field: Doctors Innovate In-Body 3D Printing


Researchers at Duke University and Harvard Medical School have developed an innovative method to 3D print inside the human body. This technique uses ultrasound waves in interaction with an injectable biocompatible ink.

In a recent paper unveiled in the Science journal, the research team revealed the foundation of their work on a photo-sensitive ink known before. This particular ink solidifies upon light exposure, making it possible for scientists gradually to create complex biomedical structures.

However, light can only infiltrate a few millimeters through a patient’s tissue, based on the research statement. On the other hand, sound waves have a considerably longer penetration capability.

The newly invented method, termed as “deep-penetrating acoustic volumetric printing” (DVAP) has the potential to further evolve the concept. This approach could enable scientists to repair bones or rectify defective heart valves, eliminating the necessity for invasive open surgery entirely.

According to coauthor and Duke biomedical engineering associate professor Junjie Yao, “DVAP utilizes the sono-thermal effect, a process in which soundwaves are absorbed, leading to a rise in temperature which then solidifies our ink.”

Yao went on to add, “Ultrasound waves have the ability to penetrate more than 100 times deeper than light without losing spatial confinement. This allows us to reach tissues, bones and organs with high spatial precision that was previously inaccessible through the use of light-based printing methods.”

Upon reaching the desired location, this biocompatible “sono-ink” can be solidified in place thanks to a custom-made ultrasound probe. The result is the creation of intricate structures.

Y. Shrike Zhang, coauthor and associate bioengineer at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said, “The ink itself is a viscous liquid, facilitating its injection into a targeted area. As the ultrasound printing probe is maneuvered around, the materials in the ink connect and solidify.”

“Once it’s done, you can remove any remaining ink that isn’t solidified via a syringe,” Zhang added.

Most impressively, the researchers uncovered opportunities to design new variations of their “sono-ink,” producing everything from robust, bone-like structures to softer, more adaptable heart valves.

The group conducted three experiments where they successfully grew a particular structure to seal a section inside a goat’s heart, effectively preventing blood accumulation within the organ. The tissue hardened and securely adhered to the tissue without any complications. They also tackled a bone defect within a chicken leg.

The researchers also illustrated that a specific sono-ink hydrogel could gradually administer a chemotherapy drug within a liver.

But, as always, a lot more research has to be done before we can tell for certain if the same tech could work in humans.

“We’re still far from bringing this tool into the clinic, but these tests reaffirmed the potential of this technology,” said Zhang in the statement. “We’re very excited to see where it can go from here.”

More on 3D printing:3D Printers Go Rogue, Start Printing While Owners Are Asleep

Original source


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