Oh, how we love thee, 3D printer. Let us count the ways… we loved you when you printed stuff in outer space, when you made us new lipstick and when you scooped ice cream cones, but especially that one time you printed a new vertebrae for a kid in China at Peking University Third Hospital. That’s right, 3D-printed bones are a thing!
The 12-year-old boy originally came in with a soccer injury, but that soon revealed a malignant tumor. As TechTimes reports, doctors performed extensive surgery to prevent the cancer from spreading, they discovered they would need to replace the boy’s second vertebrae, so they turned to a 3D printer to create a replica.
3D printing is extremely precise, and the new titanium vertebrae was designed to perfectly match the boy’s old one — something that could never be done with pre-made implants. It is just as durable as the pre-fabricated versions and was designed with small pores and holes to allow the boy’s body to grow into it naturally (normally, these types of operations require cement or screws to secure the implants), something that is wildly important for a growing lad.
The use of 3D printing in medicine is almost mind-blowing, but we will undoubtedly see much more of it in the coming years. Already doctors have successfully used this technology to create a replacement skull for a woman in the Netherlands and facial implants for a man in Cardiff. In the U.S. alone, the demand for implantable devices is projected to the fuel growth of a $52 billion industry by next year. Whoa.
What’s the coolest way you can think to use a 3D printer? Let us know in the comments!