Two years ago, we saw a remarkable advance in 3D printing technology: a professor and a doctor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor designed a splint to open the collapsing windpipe of a baby. A licensing agreement signed this month between these specialists and the 3D printing company Materialise will help such splints become a medical norm.
Professor Scott Hollister (left) and Dr. Glenn Green (right) broke new ground when they created the tracheal splint and saved the life of their young patient, Kaiba Gionfriddo. Previously, there was no known solution to the problem of tracheobronchomalacia, which causes infants’ airways to periodically collapse. In addition, the researchers created the splint out of biodegradable material, so that when Kaiba outgrows the condition, the splint will break down naturally, eliminating the need for another surgery.
The success story was very unique – Hollister and Green custom printed the splint and weren’t certain it would work. Two years later, three more infants have been saved by similar splints, but each one has been a custom case: the University of Michigan is the only place one can receive such treatment. Now the researchers are working with the Belgium-based Materialise to bring their invention to a wider audience.
"This agreement is a critical step in our goal to make this treatment readily available for other children who suffer from this debilitating condition," says Dr. Green in an Ann Arbor article. He and Professor Hollister have been streamlining the production of the tracheal splints over the years, and he now believes that the technology is ready to be released to the public. In his words,
"We have continued to evolve and automate the design process for the splints, allowing us to achieve in two days what used to take us up to five days to accomplish. I feel incredibly privileged to be building products that surgeons can use to save lives."
Under the licensing agreement, U-M researchers are still able to perform research on the splint and continue to improve it. Meanwhile, they will receive funding and support from Materialise, which provides professional 3D printing in several industries, such as health care, automotive, and consumer products. For more detailed funding statistics regarding the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, read on with our Funding Statistics and Vendor Show Info report:
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