Prosthetics are complicated, highly personal things. They must often be crafted and customized precisely to suit the individual. Additive manufacturing is proving a useful tool in this arena, as demonstrated by a new 3D printed nose design developed at Swansea University. And a bonus? It’s vegan, too!
Often, cartilage from the ribcage is used when reconstructing a patient’s nose. However, this procedure is invasive and can lead to health complications. Instead, a nanocellulose hydrogel made from pulped softwood, combined with hyaluronic acid, may be a viable printable material for creating a scaffold for cartilage cells. The patients own cartilage cells can be used to populate the scaffold, essentially growing a new nose structure from scratch. The technique won’t just be limited to nose reconstructions, either. It could also help to recreate other cartilage-based structures, such as the ear.
As with all new medical technologies, the road ahead is long. Prime concerns involve whether the material is properly bio-compatible, particularly where the immune system is concerned. However, the basic idea is one that’s being pursued in earnest by researchers around the world, whether for cosmetic purposes or to grow entire organs. As always, if you’re secretly 3D printing functional gallbladders in your basement, don’t hesitate to drop us a line.