Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


3D-printed Splint Saves Infant’s Life

Half a millennium after Johannes Gutenberg printed the bible, researchers printed a 3D splint that saved the life of an infant born with severe tracheobronchomalacia, a birth defect that causes the airway to collapse.

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!
Further information:

More articles from Medical Engineering:

nachricht Münster researchers make a fly’s heartbeat visible / Software automatically recognizes pulse
12.03.2018 | Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

nachricht 3-D-written model to provide better understanding of cancer spread
05.03.2018 | Purdue University

All articles from Medical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

TRAPPIST-1 planets provide clues to the nature of habitable worlds

21.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

The search for dark matter widens

21.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Natural enemies reduce pesticide use

21.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>