3D PRINT­ING: ADDING A NEW DI­MEN­SION

BioSpectrum (Asia) - - News - Milind Kokje Chief Ed­i­tor milind.kokje@mmac­tiv.com

Though it ap­pears like science fic­tion, it is not. 3D print­ing is fast be­com­ing a part of our day to day life in dif­fer­ent ar­eas. Life science, bio­pharma, medicine and health­care are few such im­por­tant ar­eas where 3D print­ing is play­ing a cru­cial role and will fur­ther con­tinue to do so much more in the com­ing years as it is be­com­ing more ac­ces­si­ble. It once ap­peared like a fu­tur­is­tic tech­nol­ogy far away from the present time, but very fast it started be­com­ing a promis­ing re­al­ity. Ap­pli­ca­tions of 3D print­ing in health­care and medicine field ap­pears to be quite broad. In the span of just 17 years af­ter the first pi­lot ex­per­i­ment with mod­i­fied inkjet prin­ters in 3D print­ing of mol­e­cules and cells in 2000, the med­i­cal field sees end­less pos­si­bil­i­ties. 3D print­ing of­fers great po­ten­tial in dif­fer­ent ar­eas like pre-op­er­a­tive plan­ning, de­vel­op­ing in­no­va­tive tools that would en­hance med­i­cal pro­ce­dure, anatom­i­cal mod­els, rapid pro­to­typ­ing, pros­thet­ics, re­con­struct­ing bones, or­gans and body parts in foren­sic pathol­ogy and tis­sue en­gi­neer­ing ap­pli­ca­tions.

In den­tal im­plants and hear­ing aids 3D print­ing is dis­plac­ing tra­di­tional meth­ods of pro­duc­tion. A Bel­gium based start-up pro­duc­ing med­i­cal de­vices has de­vel­oped 3D printed ti­ta­nium jaw im­plant. There are sev­eral such ex­am­ples. Just a few months back doc­tors in Dubai saved a life of an Omani woman us­ing the 3D printed model of the pa­tient’s brain di­lated ar­ter­ies that helped the com­plex brain surgery. At can­cer re­search cen­tre in Europe, re­searchers are us­ing 3D prin­ters for can­cer cells and study the growth and devel­op­ment of tu­mors.

In Asian re­gion also, a lot of devel­op­ment is hap­pen­ing in the 3D print­ing field. South Korea is the leader in 3D printed med­i­cal de­vices. It is the first coun­try in the world to ap­prove 3D printed cra­nial skull im­plants. While Korea is con­sid­er­ing tax ex­emp­tions on 3D print­ing re­search, in Ja­pan 3D print­ing cost is al­lowed in health in­sur­ance. Chi­nese gov­ern­ment has ded­i­cated $ 6.5 mil­lion for 3D print­ing re­search. With the largest pa­tient pop­u­la­tion in the world, Asia has the high­est growth po­ten­tial for 3D print­ing in health­care and medicine.

One re­cent and most im­por­tant devel­op­ment in the field of 3D print­ing is that US Food & Drugs Ad­min­is­tra­tion (FDA) has now re­leased the first ever tech­ni­cal guid­ance for man­u­fac­tur­ers us­ing 3D printed tech­nol­ogy for med­i­cal prod­ucts that in­clude de­vices, med­i­ca­tion and hu­man tis­sues. It had pub­lished the draft guide­lines in May and af­ter con­sid­er­ing sug­ges­tions on that, it has now come out with the fi­nal guide­lines. The guid­ance is based on a re­view of more than 100 mar­keted de­vices man­u­fac­tured us­ing 3D print­ing with an aim to ex­pe­dite ap­proval and mar­ket­ing of 3D med­i­cal prod­ucts.

This guid­ance will help many other coun­tries in form­ing poli­cies on 3D print­ing in the medicine field. Many coun­tries are still grop­ing to find out how to tackle with this new devel­op­ment and how to reg­u­late it. Any tech­nol­ogy based in­dus­try sec­tor re­quires guide­lines, rules & reg­u­la­tions to flour­ish. It is more true for the med­i­cal field as peo­ple’s lives and health are con­nected to the in­no­va­tions and hence safety is the most im­por­tant fac­tor. Proper reg­u­la­tions can help the sec­tor to grow in right di­rec­tions. 3D print­ing is ex­pected to bring in a ma­jor job trans­for­ma­tion also in the med­i­cal and health­care sec­tor.

A lead­ing 3D print­ing com­pany in Bel­gium has also ex­pressed sim­i­lar views when it re­quested uni­fied set of com­mon guide­lines and global stan­dards to mea­sure eco­nomic and clin­i­cal ben­e­fits of 3D print­ing. Com­mon guide­lines will help in the growth of 3D print­ing. In such a sit­u­a­tion US FDA guid­ance will not only guide the 3D print­ing in­dus­try in US, but will also guide other coun­tries to form their own poli­cies.

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