The Daily Telegraph
Surgeons to practise on 3D-printed liver
BRITISH scientists have successfully created a 3D-printed replica of a cancerous human liver which doctors can use to practise operations.
The prototype organ is made of a combination of synthetic gels and fibres and was created by researchers at Nottingham Trent University using scans and images of a patient’s organ.
“Surgeons currently assess and plan surgery using scan data like ultrasound, CT or MRI,” said Richard Arm, a PHD candidate in the School of Art & Design at the university and member of the Advanced Textiles Research Group (ATRG) who designed the liver. “There’s a few examples of researchers using animal organs from butcher’s offal to implant artificial tumours to practise surgical techniques, but these aren’t realistic because animals have different anatomy and cannot replicate specific human cases.”
He says some 3D-printed organs, mainly hearts, have been made previously, but it was previously impossible to make such realistic models.
Mr Arm constructed the liver with scan data and medical expertise provided by Dr Christopher Clarke, consultant radiologist, at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust.
Dr Clarke said: “This technology could give surgeons increased confidence in each procedure they undertake, by allowing them to better understand an individual patient’s anatomy and potentially reduce the risks to patients during what can be incredibly difficult, life-saving surgery.”
The blood vessels, tissue and concealed tumour are all made of different materials and it responds to an operation in the same way as a real organ does. For example, when sliced open with a scalpel, it will “bleed”.
“Because the synthetic organs we made have realistic blood vessels that can be filled with synthetic blood, it allows the surgeon to learn more about specific patient cases prior to the real operation and even conduct a mock tumour removal to rehearse the procedure,” said Mr Arm.