Over 55 years ago, Colleen Murray was in a terrible car crash. While thankfully she managed to escape with her life, she also experienced the terrible trauma of losing her left ear as a result of the accident. Since then, technology has evolved significantly, to say the least—and now, Colleen is a tremendous example of that as she not only receives a new, 3D printed ear, but also makes history as the first person in Australia to do so.
The new ear, even featuring a piercing to match the other side, is made of a silicone material that is very close to the texture of skin. With a simple touch of makeup, it matches Colleen’s skin tone, attaching to the side of her head with small titanium implants. Due to the pliant silicone, the 3D printed ear is extremely realistic—and Colleen is very happy. She was quite emotional—and understandably so—after being fitted for the prosthetic, and seeing herself in the mirror for the first time since receiving the new device.
“It’s wonderful,” she said, breaking down in tears.
“I was born with two ears and I’ve wanted two ears and you’ve done it for me,” said Colleen to the doctors. “Thank you very much.”
Indeed 3D printing is the miraculous end result for a 3D printed device such as Colleen’s ear, but the whole process begins with 3D scanning. And in a case like this where part of the anatomy is missing, it’s quite helpful that there is a matching piece—such as another complete intact ear—to scan and copy for the other side. Once they had the correct shape and details, the doctors were able to mold it into shape for the corresponding position with stunning results.
Prosthetist and Deakin University professor Dr. Mazer Mohammed is well aware that this is changing the course of medicine as we know it—and while this may be a first for Australia, several others around the world have been the recipients of 3D printed ears too, from that of a 3D printed prosthetic for a child to a Croatian man who received a new ear after a bout with cancer.
“There’s only maybe one or two examples in the world as well so Australia could physically be leading the world in this capability,” said Dr. Mohammed, quite correctly. “What we offer with our techniques is a like-for-like, 100 percent reproduction of that patient’s own anatomy. You just can’t ask for better than that.”
While being able to offer something like this for a patient is incredible, today it’s just the tip of the iceberg as what doctors and researchers are really pushing toward is being able to 3D print organs. While that would allow many patients to avoid long waiting lists where an unfortunate number of patients die before receiving organs, it would also allow for completely patient-specific care—as is the case here with the 3D printed ear that is a replica of the patient’s other—and not a bulky, one-size-fits-all medical device. As medicine evolves to that level though, patient-specific care is already being elevated step by step, certainly offering nothing but positives so far. Some researchers see that finish line being reached in the near future for 3D printed organs, and as soon as a year, but it may be some time beyond that before they actually master replacing them in the human body. Discuss this latest story further over in the Australian Woman Receives 3D Printed Ear forum over at 3DPB.com.[Source / Images: Yahoo7 News]
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