Personalized 3D Printed Medical Advances

3. December 2015 10:26 by Steve Leigh in Technology News  //  Tags: , , ,   //   Comments (0)

The idea of push-button medicine has always seemed like the sort of idea destined to remain more “fiction” than “science”. Every day brings new headlines about bureaucratic battles over insurance premiums that do little to improve health for the average citizen.

But as the political battles over medicine rage on, medical science continues to make strides. Recent innovations in 3D printing have lead to advancements in surgery, prosthetics, and even medicine, giving health professionals more options for treatment. The following stories reflect how 3D printing continues to be one of the most revolutionary tools in the history of health care technology.

Just-for-Me Medicine

One of the most frustrating aspects of seeking medical care is to be thought of as one-of-many rather than an individual. Medical professionals in highly-populated areas are often fighting against time in an attempt to see everyone; personal care catered to the specific needs of each patient can sometimes seem like a luxury rather than the necessity it is. Fortunately, personal care in an expeditious manner may be closer than we think.

3D Printed Heart Model for Surgery
Image via Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Researchers for the American Heart Association recently created a computer algorithm for a personalized pill. The ingestible medication would be 3D printed based on a specific patient's medical history. The researchers say their method increases the effectiveness of the medication and reduces the chances of side effects.

A similar heart-related breakthrough was made at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where researchers have created a method of turning MRI scans into 3D printed models of the heart. The system was created to give heart surgeons a physical model of the heart to interact with before surgery takes place. Both the personal pill and the 3D heart model are still in their experimental stages, but they represent great strides in health care.

From the Knees on Up

Injuries to the knees and legs are some of the most common amongst athletes, with some losing entire seasons or careers to these ailments. But as common as these injuries are, they’re also some of the most difficult to treat; a slight miscalculation can leave permanent damage. With that in mind, scientists have begun exploring the idea of replacing a damaged cartilage rather than repairing it.

Image via PBS.

Researchers at Duke University have developed a method for 3D printing human cartilage to replace its damaged counterpart. The procedure would weave the patient’s own stem cells into a specific shape to be used in the damaged area. The Duke researchers are currently experimenting on large animals and have already begun planning human trials for the future.

Give Me a Head with Hair!

From our earliest days, we’re told that one of the inevitabilities of growing older will be noticing changes to our hair. Hair replacement is a billion-dollar industry with no signs of decreasing anytime soon. But the bottles of scalp stimulant in your medicine cabinet may soon be replaced by a high-quality substitute.

3D printed hair
Image via Gizmodo.

Bad wigs and loose toupees may be a thing of the past thanks to new experiments in 3D printing synthetic hair. A team of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have created a technique that allows a printer to craft strands that resemble of a human crop. The technique is currently being worked for flaws – the printed hair is much more fragile than organic hair – but the idea of a hair piece that resembles the unnatural texture of a doll’s head may soon become a thing of the past.

Only One of You

Although the political battle over medicine seems to have no end in sight, both the political and scientific issues exist because of the patient. As long as patients continue to make their concerns heard and their conditions visible, both senators and scientists will eventually take notice.

Amazing Attachments

Regular readers of this blog will know that we've shared many wonderful stories about the use of 3D printing in the field of medicine. The technology has quickly been adopted for everything from the growth of replacement organs to the creation of prosthetic limbs. The processes associated with 3D printing could become one of the most revolutionary advances in the history of modern medicine.

With all the advances made so far, perhaps the most pleasant surprise is that they're showing no signs of slowing. Thanks to this technology, ailments and disabilities previously thought to have no treatment could have possible cures. The following stories document the latest advances of medical 3D printing, and it's safe to say they won't be the last.

Homegrown Hearts

Scientists at the University of Florida recently made headlines when they revealed that they'd created a new gel-based 3D-printing process. Printed using this process, the final product is less likely to fall apart after printing is complete. The University had successfully printed complex shapes with a variety of materials, including living cells from human blood vessels and canine kidneys. Although this would seem to be the perfect prelude for the printing of replacement organs, the university's team was unable to keep the living cells alive within the gel. That's where Carnegie Mellon comes in.

cells in gel
Image via IFL Science.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon have long been working on their own process for 3D-printing organs. They recently had a major breakthrough when they concluded that they could successfully print a working human heart. Using a chemical-based gel process of their own design, the researchers began printing arteries and veins.

The heart being an organ that is unable to repair itself when injured, the importance of the Carnegie process was not lost on its creators. Although printing a complete organ is still expensive and time-consuming, the idea that it may become a commonplace process isn't so far-fetched anymore.

Heavily Armed

The ability to procure a prosthetic limb isn't only a matter of restoring physical ability. Social stigmas associated with being an amputee must be overcome. Great strides have been made in making modern prosthetics as visually appealing as they are functional. Yet, as appealing as the new designs are, they still lack sensation, and may draw unwanted attention to the amputee. It has long been the goal of prosthetic designers to create a skin-like covering that would look as real as organic skin and provide a sense of touch to the wearer. Science has just moved one step closer to attaining these goals.

prosthetic hand
Image via Gizmodo.

Researchers at Stanford University, led by electrical engineer Benjamin Tee, have created a system they call DiTact (The Digital Tactical System). It uses a series of sensors in the prosthetic which sends signals back to the optical nerves in the brain, restoring a sense of touch to the amputee. What's more, the artificial skin is made from flexible material. The next step will be to recreate the look of organic flesh. This is, however, only a long-term goal for the Stanford team.

As inspiring as the above stories are, it's too soon to say that made-to-order organs will be readily available. But with 3D-printing technology being used to create everything from fire arms to human teeth, don't be surprised if printed replacements come sooner than you'd expect.

3D-Printed LEGO Limbs Help Child Amputees Adjust

Longtime readers of this blog know that we're quite fond of LEGOs and fascinated by the use of 3D printing in the field of medicine. So when news broke of these two elements being brought together, it was only a matter of time before we told you folks about it.

A Man with a Plan

Colombian-born designer Carlos Arturo Torres interned for six months at LEGO's Future Lab. Impressed by the company's dedication to social outreach, Torres convinced them to sponsor a trip back to his hometown of Bogotá, wherein he would observe amputees at Cirec, a rehabilitation center. After spending time in the center’s youth ward, Torres came up with an idea to make a medical attachment out of their favorite toys.

Double Trouble for Young Amputees

As Torres discovered, amputee children not only have to function with a missing limb, but also face a greater social stigma amongst their peers. "My friends in psychology used to tell me that when a kid has a disability, he is not really aware of it until he faces society," says Torres. "That's when they have a super rough encounter."

Introducing Personalized Prosthetics

Torres' design, named "Iko", is for amputees aged to 3-12, covering many of the most important developmental years in a child's life. The attachment allows the child to accessorize and customize the prosthetic as they see fit, helping to build the patient's self-esteem as well as providing functional movement.

After successfully testing the prototypes at Cirec, Torres hopes to have 15 more units ready by this December, with a full production line ready by mid-2017.

What is secure biometric printing

16. March 2012 06:40 by Calvin Yu in Technology News  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

Biometric Finger ScannerSecure printing is usually a term reserved for such high-security jobs as printing banknotes, identification, passports, and financial certificates, but many businesses print documents that have just as much a need for security measures as any of these. Secure printing does not simply mean printing documents so they cannot be forged, it also means printing documents so that they do not fall into the wrong hands. Printing is one area where security is often lax. Firewalls and network security only protects data from unauthorized computer-to-computer transmission. It does not stop someone from simply printing documents and walking out the door with them.

Too many businesses in high-security industries such as finance, healthcare, government and education perform their printing on standard printers with no security measures in place. Most of these businesses should be doing just the opposite by rigidly controlling who can operate printers and what information can be sent to them. The best way to accomplish this feat is through secure biometric printing.

The Need for Secure Biometric Printing
Printers are often the largest security gap in companies that store sensitive data. Data security experts estimate that up to 30 percent of documents that are sent to the printer are left there and available for anyone to gather. In addition, most printers are left unprotected, so anyone inside the company can change their settings and reroute sensitive documents to accessible printers. Another way data is stolen from printers is from the printer memory. Oftentimes, recent print jobs are stored in printer hard drives and can be accessed by anyone.

Allowing secure documents to fall in the wrong hands has a number of consequences for a business. At the top of this list is legal liability. Lawsuits are won each year against companies who could have prevented data theft. In some industries, companies who let sensitive data slip out are subject to government fines for industry violations. Many businesses could also lose thousands or millions of dollars in profit if corporate secrets, customer databases or marketing strategies fall into the hands of the competition.

The need for secure biometric printing is real and can be monetized. Protection from losses caused by security breaches is available today at very reasonable prices.

How Secure Biometric Printing Works
Secure biometric printing is not a solution within itself, but it is part of a full secure printing system. Secure printing begins with standard security protocols. Restricting physical access to printers, securing local area networks, requiring passwords and encrypting sensitive data are all strategies that can help secure printing, but much more is still required.

Even if security protocols are observed, it is still necessary to secure printing hardware. Multifunction printers are notorious for their lack of security, but they can be buttoned down by making sure they are coupled with devices to control who can access and use them. Some companies use password access, while others use security cards. However, passwords can be broken, and security cards can be lost or stolen. The only fully secure method of controlling access to printers is through biometrics.

Biometric security is the use of unique physical traits to control access to devices. Biometrics can include DNA matching, face recognition, voice recognition and eye scans. However, the simplest form of biometric security is a standard fingerprint reader. Secure biometric printing using a password and fingerprint combination is seen as the most practical form of printer security currently available. Fingerprints cannot be forged, making them very secure, and fingerprint scanners are among the most affordable pieces of biometric equipment on the market.

Once the hardware is installed, all that is necessary for secure biometric printing to work is to scan the fingerprints of those who are cleared to use the printer and enter their passwords. After setup is complete, only the people whose fingerprints and passwords have been loaded will be able to use the printer for any purpose.

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