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University of Central Florida is Working to Make 3D Printed Heart Models Readily Available

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heartsDr. Dinender Singla is unquestionably a heart expert. The University of Central Florida professor is a Fellow of the American Heart Association and a Fellow of International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences, just to name a few of his honors. He has published over 70 peer-reviewed papers in prestigious scientific journals, has organized and chaired multiple conferences across the world, and otherwise contributed to the cardiovascular research field in undoubtedly lifesaving ways. It’s no surprise, then, that Dr. Singla is involved in one of the most important technological developments in cardiovascular health – 3D printing.

Specifically, Dr. Singla has been working on the development of customized 3D printed heart models to aid surgeons in complex pediatric procedures – like the surgery performed on little Ronan, a baby born with a severe heart defect. 20% of children with Ronan’s type of defect don’t survive, but thanks to a 3D printed model of the baby’s heart provided by Dr. Singla and his lab, doctors at the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children were able to plan out the delicate surgery before operating. Ronan is now a healthy, happy baby with a healthy heart.

“The goal is to give doctors a tool they can use that accurately reflects what they will be seeing when they go into surgery,” Dr. Singla said. “It can make for better outcomes.”

singla-548x365Stories like Ronan’s are becoming more common; just last week a baby in China was saved thanks to a 3D printed replica of his heart. Dr. Singla’s mission is to make sure that 3D printed heart models are readily available to doctors and surgeons, and his lab is currently seeking funding for the production workable models. Also involved in the UCF research is Dr. William DeCampli, a faculty member who is also a pediatric surgeon at Arnold Palmer.

“It’s pretty amazing work,” said Kaley Garner, a biomedical sciences and biotechnology major working in Dr. Singla’s lab. “Heart disease is such a big issue now for adults and children. I love that I get to make models that could help doctors prepare for surgery.”

heartprintThe work that Dr. Singla’s lab is doing demonstrates how quickly 3D printed surgical models are advancing. They’re becoming more complex, detailed, and customized not only for specific patients but for specific conditions. Different colors are used to highlight defects, and printing materials are adjusted depending on the type of problem – a softer material might be used to more realistically show an internal structural defect in the heart, while a harder polymer may be used to demonstrate an issue on the outside of the organ.

Dr. Singla is also working on research in the field of 3D bioprinting, which, as we all know, is advancing at remarkable rates.

“These are exciting times in bioengineering, which could eventually end the need for organ donors,” said Jessica Hellein, another student working in Dr. Singla’s lab. “Over the past 20 years, technology has improved rapidly, and it will be exciting to see where we are within the coming decades. There’s a long way to go, but projects like these are a start.”

You can see more about the project, and Ronan’s story, below. Discuss in the 3D Printed Heart Models forum over at 3DPB.com.

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