New 3D Printed Organ Models Don’t Just Look Like Real Organs, They Feel and React Like Them Too


There is a lot of evidence to show that anatomically printed 3D models greatly improve the results of medical procedures. When surgeons can plan and practice an operation on a perfect 3D printed replica of a patient’s organ, surgeries tend to take less time, as does recovery. But there are still limitations for the 3D printed organs that are used today. They can look exactly like the individual organs of patients, since they are created from computed tomography and magnetic resonance data, but they are only replicas in the visual sense. In general, they are still made of hard plastic, so they will have a completely different sensation from a living organ, and they are extremely difficult to cut, which makes surgical planning more of a visual effort. They will not react in the same way that a real organ will react during surgery.

This does not mean that 3D printed organ models are not extremely useful, but … could they be made more useful? Of course, says a team of researchers led by the University of Minnesota. The researchers have models of organs printed in 3D that not only look like real organs, but feel like them and have the same mechanical properties. They even have soft sensors that provide feedback so surgeons know how much pressure they can apply without damaging the tissue, for example.

The research was published in a document entitled “Models of 3D printed organs with physical properties of tissues and integrated sensors”, which can be accessed here.

“We are developing next-generation organ models for pre-operative practice.The organ models we print in 3D are almost a perfect replica in terms of the appearance of an individual’s organ, using our custom 3D printers,” said the researcher. principal Michael McAlpine, associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Minnesota. Faculty of Sciences and Engineering and a recipient of the 2017 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE).

“We believe that these organ models could be ‘game modifiers’ to help surgeons plan and practice better for surgery, and we hope this saves lives by reducing medical errors during surgery.”

The team was initially contacted by Dr. Robert Sweet, a former urologist at the University of Minnesota who now works at the University of Washington. I was looking for better 3D models of prostate. The researchers took magnetic resonance imaging and tissue samples from the prostate of three patients, then developed customized silicone-based 3D printing inks that can be adjusted to exactly match the mechanical properties of each patient’s individual prostate, so that not only print in 3D. model that feels like a prostate, are printing in 3D a model that feels like the prostate of a specific patient.

The models were printed in 3D on the university’s personalized 3D printer and then 3D printed sensors were connected. Then, the researchers observed how the models reacted to compression tests and a variety of surgical tools.

“The sensors could give surgeons real-time feedback on how much force they can use during surgery without damaging the tissue,” said Kaiyan Qiu, a postdoctoral researcher in mechanical engineering at the University of Minnesota and lead author of the paper. “This could change the way surgeons think about personalized medicine and preoperative practice.”

Researchers hope to advance more with 3D printing models of more complicated organs, using multiple inks. Surgeons could use these to practice the removal of a tumor, for example, and try different methods to see which is the most successful before operating the patient. However, McAlpine has goals that go beyond that.

“If we could replicate the function of these tissues and organs, some day we could even create ‘bionic organs’ for transplants,” said McAlpine. “I call this the ‘Human X’ project, it sounds a bit like science fiction, but if these synthetic organs look, feel and act like real tissues or organs, we do not see why we could not print them in 3D on demand to replace them. real organs. ”

The authors of the article include Kaiyan Qiu, Zichen Zhao, Ghazaleh Haghiashtiani, Shuang-Zhuang Guo, Mingyu He, Ruitao Su, Zhijie Zhu, Didarul B. Bhuiyan, Paari Murugan, Fanben Meng, Sung Hyun Park, Chih-Chang Chu, Brenda M Ogle, Daniel A. Saltzman, Badrinath R. Konety, Robert M. Sweet and Michael C. McAlpine.