The use of 3D printing technology in the medical field has been steadily gaining ground, be it by Additive Manufacturing companies like ARCAM AB or independent researchers and experimenters. eA research team at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering under the joint leadership of Cheng Sun and Guillermo Ameer has been successful in developing a flexible biodegradable stent by using 3D printing technology. These environmental-friendly and recyclable stents can be customized in accordance with a specific patient’s heart health.
Cardiac surgeons, throughout the world, usually fall back upon their experience in figuring out the perfect stent size that’d be appropriate for a specific patient so that blood flow remains smooth without the implant getting coagulated. This medical breakthrough is expected to spare heart specialists and surgeons from the hassle of having to estimate a stent’s size that is patient-specific and focuses totally on effectively implanting the device.
Biodegradable patient-specific heart stents developed using 3D printing technology
Northwestern University’s researchers and scientists have of late been excelling in coming up with breakthroughs that have created a stir in the medical/healthcare sector. The researchers, for instance, created a hyper-elastic bone from biomedical composite material very recently and now they’ve successfully created an eco-friendly heart stent modeled on a prototype designed using 3D printing. A stent is a medical device that is inserted into a patient’s heart to restore normal blood circulation that gets compromised due to hardening (atherosclerosis) or narrowing (arteriostenosis) of the arteries.
The artificial stents that help in reestablishing the flow of blood in arteries are usually made of metal. Since the surgeon has to rely on his experience for estimating the actual size of a stent which varies from one patient to the other, there always remains a margin of error. This implies that stents fitted inside a few patients are extremely vulnerable to not functioning properly due to imperfect placement and also getting coagulated in the long run.
The biodegradable stent pioneered by Cheng and Ameer is extremely versatile due to its unique properties that help in dealing with the issues of coagulation and customization. The scientists exploited the projection micro-stereo-lithography printing mechanism to develop a model stent. This prototype became the basis for giving shape to a citrus-based polymerized stent where the microCLIP (micro continuous liquid interface production) procedure was harnessed.
The 3D printing technique made optimal use of photocured liquid resin and light rays for producing the ecological stents that had natural antioxidant attributes which solved the problem of coagulation or blood clotting. Furthermore, the printing technique, as well as the texture of the material, was instrumental in making stents that’d be accepted by the hearts of different patients. Simply put, the printing method allowed the researchers to build stents whose shapes exactly corresponded with those of the patient’s blood vessels unique structure. This customization it is anticipated will reduce the risks for physiological or geometrical issues to arise in the future.
The revolutionary microCLIP mechanism allows processing of a hundred prototypes (of the stent) in 4 minutes or 25 units in just one minute! Producing stents via conventional techniques takes a much longer time. Additionally, stents produced through the microCLIP process also are more compatible with anticoagulant medications, ultimately enabling the patient to convalesce faster.