3D printing technology has virtually endless uses and applications, not all of them beneficial, but here is one that is definitely worth exploring further: developing medical implants and devices.

Scientists from the University of Michigan used a custom-design 3D implant to save the life of a baby suffering from a rare respiratory disorder.

Custom-design 3D Implant Saves Baby’s Life

Kaiba Gionfriddo suffered from a condition known as tracheobronchomalacia, in which the airway in one of his lungs collapsed when exhaling, thus preventing him from breathing in enough oxygen and getting out the carbon dioxide.

The baby almost asphyxiated when he was six weeks old. He was put on a respirator, but he still stopped breathing and had to be resuscitated almost every day.

In the meantime, Kaiba’s doctor, Michigan pediatric otolaryngology professor Glenn Green kept on trying to find a solution. He and biomedical engineering professor Scott Hollister joined forces to design a special tracheal implant for the baby, based on a CT scan of the respiratory tract.

The C-shaped, flexible tracheal implant was printed with a special type of bio-absorbable plastic, the same material used for dissolvable stitches. The implant will dissolve into the child’s body in about two or three years, which is precisely how long it takes for the trachea to grow into a normal state, the doctors said.

The intervention was performed in February 2012, with emergency clearance from the Food and Drug Administration, and it was very successful, as the baby was able to come off the ventilator just three weeks later. The baby is now 19 months old and has not had any breathing problems since surgery.

Green and Hollister said the same technology could be used for many different kinds of implants, including facial bones. The two doctors have already created custom-design 3D implants for ears and noses, but none of these has been transplanted yet.

[Image via Gizmag]