Innovative Approach: Doctors Pioneer In-Body 3D Printing Methodology


A new method for 3D printing within the human body has been created by a research team at Duke University and Harvard Medical School. The technique uses ultrasound waves directed at a biocompatible ink that can be injected.

In a recently published paper in the Science journal, the research built upon previous work involving a light-sensitive ink which solidifies when light beams are shone onto it. This allows scientists to gradually create complex biomedical structures.

However, according to a research statement, light can only penetrate a few millimeters into a person’s tissue. Soundwaves, on the other hand, can reach much further.

The innovative procedure, known as “deep-penetrating acoustic volumetric printing” (DVAP), could advance this concept even more. Scientists might be able to repair bones or correct faulty heart valves through this technique — eliminating the need for invasive open surgery altogether.

“DVAP relies on the sono-thermal effect, which occurs when soundwaves are absorbed and increase the temperature to harden our ink,” mentioned the coauthor and Duke biomedical engineering associate professor Junjie Yao.

“Ultrasound waves have the capability to penetrate over 100 times deeper than light while still being spatially confined and hence, tissues, bones, and organs that haven’t been accessible with light-based printing methods are now within our reach,” elaborated Yao.

Once the sono-ink, which is compatible with biological tissues, reaches the intended area, a specifically developed ultrasound probe hardens it in place to form complex structures.

“The ink is basically a viscous fluid, therefore it can be easily injected into a specific area, and as the ultrasound printing probe is moved around, the materials in the ink bond together and solidify,” explained Y. Shrike Zhang, the coauthor and associate bioengineer at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard, in his statement.

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

Best of all, the scientists found ways to formulate new versions of their “sono-ink,” ranging from durable bone-like scaffolds to softer, more flexible heart valves.

In a series of three tests, the team grew a special structure to seal off a section inside a goat’s heart to stop blood from pooling inside the organ. The tissue hardened and safely bonded to the tissue without any complications. The team also addressed a bone defect inside a chicken leg.

The scientists also demonstrated that a special sono-ink hydrogel could slowly release a chemotherapy drug inside 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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