Groundbreaking Invention: Doctors Discover How to 3D Print Inside the Human Body


Researchers from Duke University and Harvard Medical School have reportedly developed a method to 3D print inside the human body. This is made possible by directing ultrasound waves to a biocompatible ink that can be injected.

In a paper published in the Science journal, the researchers discuss how the method builds on previously developed photo-sensitive ink. This ink hardens when exposed to light, enabling the construction of complex biomedical structures.

However, light can only penetrate a couple of millimeters into a patient’s tissue, according to a statement on the research. Soundwaves, in contrast, can penetrate significantly deeper.

The new method, known as ‘deep-penetrating acoustic volumetric printing’ (DVAP) might extend these possibilities. It could allow for repairing bones or correcting heart valves, removing the necessity for invasive surgery.

“DVAP depends on the phenomenon known as the sono-thermal effect, a process in which sound waves are absorbed to increase temperature, critically facilitating the hardening of our unique ink,” explained Junjie Yao, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Duke and coauthor of the study.

“The great advantage of ultrasound waves is their capacity to penetrate more than 100 times deeper than light, yet remain spatially confined. As a result, we can target tissues, bones, and organs with remarkable spatial precision – a capability unreachable with light-based printing techniques,” elaborated Yao.

Upon the sono-ink reaching the area of interest, an uniquely crafted ultrasound probe performs the task of hardening it, allowing for the creation of complex structures.

As explained by Y. Shrike Zhang, coauthor and associate bioengineer at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, “The ink substance presents as a viscous liquid, permitting fairly easy injection into a specified area. As you maneuver the ultrasound printing probe, the materials within the ink link together and harden.”

According to Zhang, once the procedure is finished, any remaining, non-solidified ink can be removed using a syringe.

Excitingly, the researchers have succeeded in developing new formulations of their innovative “sono-ink”, which can range from robust, bone-like scaffolds to softer and more elastic heart valves.

The team conducted three trials in which they created a bespoke structure to seal off a section within a goat’s heart. This prevented blood from accumulating inside the organ. The tissue successfully solidified and attached to the organ tissue without any issues. The researchers also successfully treated a bone defect located in a chicken leg.

In addition, the scientists showcased that a distinct 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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