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.
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.
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.
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.