Professors Develop Customized 3D Printed Implant for Facial Reconstruction
Despite having numerous advantages, clinical applications of 3D printed scaffolds for tissue regeneration are extremely rare. A team consisting of POSTECH Professor of Mechanical Engineering Dong-Woo Cho, Professor Jong Won Rhie of the Department of Plastic Surgery College of Medicine at the Catholic University of Korea, and Won-Soo Yun of T&R Biofab Co., have applied 3D printing technology for correcting an asymmetric face caused by the removal of a tumor in a patient about a decade ago.
The patient had trauma in the right
malar region and because of this his eyes were misaligned. In this type of deformity, a rib fragment is generally collected and implanted for correcting the position of the eye, but this approach leads to an additional complication to the costal region of the donor site. The surgeon’s skill could also affect the operation results.
To address the current limitations of facial reconstruction, the team used 3D printing technology to create custom-made implants. The 3D model of the implant was designed with the technical support of FusionTech Co. and realized by Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certificated 3D printing systems. The left side of the patient’s face was mirrored to generate a perfect implant matching the deformed area for the right side of the face with enophthalmos.
The distinction of this reconstruction is the implant, which consisted of a FDA-approved biodegradable polymer, Poly (ϵ‐caprolactone) (PCL), for bone tissue regeneration. This type of PCL implant has been known to degrade in the body within 1 to 2 years with very little immune responses. Moreover, PCL has a high potential to regenerate soft and hard tissue/organ as demonstrated by several research group worldwide. The implant will be replaced by regenerated bone tissue from the adjacent bonny region.
The printing of a scaffold-type implant with a porous structure requires more precise 3D printing technology compared to printing a general solid type structure. A GMP-certificated 3D printing system to fabricate the scaffold-type implant for clinical use was supported by T&R Biofab Co., which has been producing the biodegradable patch using 3D printing systems for the regeneration of bone/skin tissues. Another advantage of the implant is that it reduces the general operative time from 8 hours to 2 hours.
After this corrective surgery, the left eye of the patient was successfully realigned to that of the right eye and he was able to return to his normal life within a few days. The team will monitor the patient’s progress over the next 2 years.
This project highlights the successful clinical application of 3D printing technology to regenerate tissue or organ by patient-specific customized-designing and computer-aided manufacturing. The team hopes that the success of this surgery will pave the way for the clinical use of 3D printing based biomedical applications and provide a better health care delivery system for many patients.