3D-printed device saves lives of three babies in US

Washington: Scientists have for the first time successfully implanted a groundbreaking 3D-printed device to save the lives of three babies in the US suffering from a life-threatening condition that prevents normal breathing.

All the three babies had the same life-threatening condition: a terminal form of tracheobronchomalacia, which causes the windpipe to periodically collapse and prevents normal breathing. There was no cure and life-expectancies were grim, researchers said.

The three boys became the first in the world to benefit from groundbreaking 3D printed devices that helped keep their airways open, restored their breathing and saved their lives at the University of Michigan's CS Mott Children's Hospital.

"These cases broke new ground for us because we were able to use 3D printing to design a device that successfully restored patients' breathing through a procedure that had never been done before," said senior author Glenn Green, from the CS Mott Children's Hospital.

"Before this procedure, babies with severe tracheobronchomalacia had little chance of surviving. Today, our first patient Kaiba is an active, healthy 3-year-old in preschool with a bright future. The device worked better than we could have ever imagined," said Green.

We have been able to successfully replicate this procedure and have been watching patients closely to see whether the device is doing what it was intended to do. We found that this treatment continues to prove to be a promising option for children facing this life-threatening condition that has no cure," Green added.

The findings also show that the patients were able to come off of ventilators and no longer needed paralytics, narcotics and sedation. Researchers noted improvements in multiple organ systems. Patients were relieved of immunodeficiency-causing proteins
that prevented them from absorbing food so that they no longer needed intravenous therapy.

Kaiba Gionfriddo made headlines after he became the first patient to benefit from the procedure in 2012, and the procedure was repeated with Garrett Peterson and Ian Orbich. Using 3D printing, Green and his colleague Scott Hollister, were able to create and implant customised tracheal splints for each patient.

The device was created directly from CT scans of their tracheas, integrating an image-based computer model with laser-based 3D printing to produce the splint. The specially-designed splints were placed in the three patients. The splint was sewn around their airways to expand the trachea and bronchus and give it a skeleton to aid proper growth.

The splint is designed to be reabsorbed by the body over time. The growth of the airways were followed with CT and MRI scans, and the device was shown to open up to allow airway growth for all three patients. The finding was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

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