While similar surgeries have been preformed using tissue donations and windpipes created from stem cells, this is the first time 3D printing has been used to treat tracheobronchomalacia—at least in a human.
Matthew Wheeler, a University of Illinois Professor of Animal Sciences and member of the Regenerative Biology and Tissue Engineering research theme at the Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB), worked with a team of five researchers to test 3D-printed, bioresorbable airway splints in porcine, or pig, animal models with severe, life-threatening tracheobronchomalacia.
“If the promise of tissue engineering is going to be realized, our translational research must be ‘translated’ from our laboratory and experimental surgery suite to the hospital and clinic,” Wheeler said. “The large-animal model is the roadway to take this device from the bench top to the bedside.”
For more than 40 years, pigs have served as medical research models because their physiology is very similar to humans. In addition to tracheobronchomalacia, pigs have been biomedical models for muscular dystrophy, diabetes, and other diseases. The team chose to use two-month-old pigs for this study because their tracheas have similar biomechanical and anatomical properties to a growing human trachea.
“Essentially, all our breakthroughs in human clinical medicine have been initially tested or perfected in animal models,” Wheeler said. “Through the use of animal models, scientists and doctors are able to perfect techniques, drugs, and materials without risking human lives.”
First, Wheeler sent a CT scan of a pig’s trachea to Scott Hollister, a professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Michigan. Hollister used the CT scan and a 3D CAD program to design and print the splints. These devices were made from an FDA-approved material called polycaprolactone or PCL, which Wheeler has used in more than 100 large-animal procedures.
Next, Wheeler developed a strategy to implement the device and U-M associate professor of pediatric otolaryngology Glenn Green carried out the surgical procedure. After the splint was placed, the pigs’ tracheobronchomalacia symptoms disappeared.
“All of our work is physician inspired,” Wheeler said. “Babies suffering from tracheobronchomalacia were brought to ear, nose and throat surgeons, but they didn’t have any treatment options. They turned to us to engineer a cure.”
Kaiba (KEYE'-buh) Gionfriddo was six weeks old when he suddenly stopped breathing and turned blue at a restaurant with his parents. As a result of severe tracheobronchomalacia, his heart would often stop beating, and despite the aid of a mechanical ventilator, he had to be resuscitated daily by doctors.
April and Bryan Gionfriddo believed their son’s chance of survival was slim until Marc Nelson, a doctor at Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio, mentioned researchers from the University of Michigan were testing airway splints similar to those used in Wheeler’s study.
After obtaining emergency clearance from the Food and Drug Administration, Hollister and Green used computer-guided lasers to print, stack, and fuse thin layers of plastic to make up Kaiba’s splint.
The splint was sewn around Kaiba’s airway to expand his collapsed bronchus and provide support for tissue growth. A slit in the side of the splint allows it to expand as Kaiba’s airway grows. In about three years, after Kaiba’s trachea has reconstructed itself, his body will reabsorb the splint as the PCL degrades.
Soon Kaiba’s tracheotomy tube will be removed after a year without any breathing crises. His success story provides hope for other children born with this disorder, an estimated 1 in 2,100 births.
“It’s not very rare,” Wheeler said. “It’s really not. I think it’s very rewarding to all of us to know that we are contributing to helping treat or even cure this disease.”
More data from Wheeler’s large animal trials will be essential to show the long-term viability of this procedure before it can be used to save the lives of other children born with this disorder. In future trials, Wheeler plans to add stem cells to the splint in order to accelerate healing.
This translational research was conducted at the IGB, a research facility at the U of I that promotes multi-disciplinary collaboration. The institute is considered by many to be the Midwest region’s center for large-animal biomedical models.
“We have a reputation for being excellent in this area,” Wheeler said. “We would like to capitalize on the expertise and the facilities that we have here to continue to conduct life-saving research. I'm hoping that this story will encourage more people come to us and say 'Hey, we'd like to develop this model.'”
Nicholas Vasi | EurekAlert!
UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses
02.12.2016 | University of Texas at San Antonio
Earlier Alzheimer's diagnosis may be possible with new imaging compound
02.11.2016 | Washington University School of Medicine
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy