Japanese surgeon Maki Sugimoto holds a 3-D replica of a patient’s liver built by printers using acrylic resin.
Surgeons at a hospital in Japan recently faced a dilemma before transplanting a parent’s liver into a child: How exactly to trim the organ to fit the space in the child’s smaller cavity while preserving its functions.
So they took a knife to a three-dimensional replica of the donor’s liver built by a machine that resembles an office printer. The model helped the doctors figure out where to carve it, leading to a successful transplant last month.
Surgeons are finding industrial 3-D printers to be a lifesaver on the operating table. This technology, also known as additive manufacturing, has long produced prototypes of jewelry, electronics and car parts. But now these industrial printers are able to construct personalized copies of livers and kidneys, one ultrathin layer at a time.
The medical field in particular is expected to benefit greatly from 3-D printing. Scientists are working on ways to print embryonic stem cells and living human tissue with the aim to produce body parts that can be directly attached to or implanted in the body.