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article image3D printed vertebrae used in pioneering surgery

By Tim Sandle     Feb 26, 2016 in Science
Sydney - In a pioneering medical study, a patient has been fitted with 3-D printed artificial vertebrae. This is the first time replacement bones for the spine have been created and used in this way.
The novel three-dimensional printing technique was developed by Ralph Mobbs, who is a neurosurgeon based at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney. The surgeon attempted the printing and associated pioneering surgery after a patient, aged in his 60's, visited the doctor with chronic back-pain. It was discovered the pain was due to a type of cancer called chordoma.
Chordoma is a very rare type of cancer. The disease relates to fragments of what is known as the notochord. The notochord forms the spine in a developing baby in the womb. Once baby is born and reaches six-months of age, the notochord is transformed into spinal bones. However, small amounts of the notochord can remain and in unusual circumstances this can form a tumor.
Speaking with Mashable Australia, Professor Mobbs takes up the story: "At the top of the neck, there are two highly-specialised vertebrae that are involved in the flexion and rotation of the head. This tumour had occupied those two vertebrae."
Treating the tumor damages the vertebrae. To overcome this the professor created new vertebrae to replace those remove during the surgery. The method led to custom-printed body parts being created for the patient. The parts were created by a company called Anatomics. The titanium implants were developed according to precise specifications to fir the patient's anatomy.
The method of creating vertebrae in the neck is a first and the success should open up a new age of reconstructive surgery.
In related news, scientists have produced the most realistic lab-grown liver tissue yet seen. This was through lab-on-chip technology.
More about 3D printing, Organs, vertebrae, Surgery
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