Wed, Mar 11, 2015 - Page 6 News List

3D printed organs offer ultra-realistic practice

AFP, TOKYO

Jukei University School of Medicine professor Toshiaki Morikawa, left, teaches interns surgery using an artificial lung made by a 3D printer in Tokyo on Jan. 21.

Photo: AFP

An incision from the surgeon’s scalpel sends liquid oozing over the surface of a the lung, but on this occasion it does not matter if something goes wrong — the doctor can simply create another model with a 3D printer.

The ultra-realistic lung — wet, soft and complete with tumors and blood vessels — is one of a range of organs being produced by a Japanese firm that will allow surgeons to hone their skills without hurting anyone.

“With the wet model, doctors can experience the softness of organs and see them bleed,” said Tomohiro Kinoshita of creator Fasotec, a company based in Chiba, southeast of Tokyo.

“We aim to help doctors improve their skills with the models,” he added.

From guns to cars, prosthetics and works of art, 3D printing is predicted to transform our lives in the coming decades, researchers say, as dramatically as the Internet did before it.

The so-called Biotexture Wet Model, which will come onto the market for surgery training and medical equipment-testing in Japan as early as next month, is created by scanning a real organ in minute detail and creating molds on a 3D printer.

That shell is then injected with gel-type synthetic resin to give it a wet, lifelike feeling in the surgeon’s hands.

Each one is designed to exactly mimic the texture and weight of a real organ so it can react to the surgical knife in exactly the same way.

Maki Sugimoto, a medical doctor who has tried samples, said the wet models are almost “too realistic.”

Seen without their context, he said, it would be easy to mistake them for the real thing.

“The touch is similar to that of the real liver,” said Sugimoto, who is also a special instructor at Kobe University Graduate School of Medicine in Kobe.

Toshiaki Morikawa, a medical doctor at Jikei University Hospital in Tokyo, also said: “The current models are too simple and details of anatomy are not accurately reflected, but this is obviously superior as it’s produced precisely and is very close to the living organ in quality.”

For Morikawa, the world of 3D printing, which works by building up layers of material, offers endless possibilities for medicine, including maybe one day functional organs for use in transplants.

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