While the 3DPrint.com head office is stationed in sunny Florida, I’m here in northeast Ohio, where we’re still waiting in mid-May for spring to settle in for sure. Back in February, I skipped out on Cleveland’s -20°F cold front and hopped a plane down to visit a friend in south Florida for a week. As my fiancé and family continued to freeze, my friend asked if I wanted to go down to the ocean one evening, so we could see if the sea turtles were coming in. Aside from my obvious cheer at weather that was actually a ‘real feel’ of a solid 100° temperature difference (it’s a different world, going from -20° to 80° in one day) and frolicking beachside, I was so excited to go see the turtles–few animals in nature are quite as impressive, long-lived, and stately as the sea turtle.
Seven species of sea turtle currently live around the world, and four are classified as either “endangered” or “critically endangered,” with another two being “vulnerable” to joining their ranks. One of the endangered species, the Caretta caretta or loggerhead sea turtle, has a lifespan of up to almost 70 years and can be found in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans, as well as the Mediterranean Sea–all places where, especially since they need to lay their eggs on land, they are unfortunately susceptible to the negative environmental influence brought about by humans.
In Turkey, a loggerhead sea turtle was recently brought to the Sea Turtle Research, Rescue and Rehabilitation Center at Pamukkale University (PAU). The turtle, which they called AKUT3, had significant damage to its upper and lower jaws, and the team at PAU noted that the turtle was unable to feed on its own in the wild.
The Sea Turtle Research, Rescue and Rehabilitation Center at PAU was quick to help, and it turned out that the turtle’s best chance for healing came courtesy of 3D printing. The Center’s director, Prof. Dr. Yakup Kaska, noted that 3D technology proved to be the best hope for the turtle–and this particular operation would represent the first time in the world that a sea turtle would benefit from the technology.
BTech Innovation, “the first private R&D corporation in Turkey,” has extensive experience with 3D technology for medical applications–creating medical-grade implants, models, and prostheses–and came to the turtle’s aid. Using CT scans from the turtle’s veterinary care, the BTech team used the Mimics Innovation Suite from Materialise to create a 3D model of the affected areas of the turtle’s jaws. Ultimately, BTech took the models created to design an implant for the turtle, 3D printing it in titanium.
The surgery was a success and the patient is recovering quite nicely, though that process is sure in itself to require some time. The turtle’s veterinary surgeon, Prof. Dr. Anas M. Anderson, noted that the turtle did not show any signs of rejecting the implant, following a post-op examination 18 days after the procedure.
While I didn’t actually get to see any sea turtles on my Floridian jaunt a few months ago, it’s wonderful to know that thanks to the efforts of caring veterinary teams around the world, there will still be more chances to see these incredible, endangered gentle giants as their health needs can be met and their lives saved.
Have you heard of similar stories of 3D printed implants in the veterinary world? Let us know what you think of this one in the 3D Printed Titanium Jaw Implant for a Sea Turtle forum thread over at 3DPB.com. Check out the video (in Turkish) below, as well as more images from BTech.