A team from the University of Maryland School of Medicine have been developing a special prosthesis that could help those with hearing problems.
Study author Jeffrey D. Hirsch, M.D., assistant professor of radiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said: "The ossicles are very small structures, and one reason the surgery has a high failure rate is thought to be due to incorrect sizing of the prostheses. If you could custom-design a prosthesis with a more exact fit, then the procedure should have a higher rate of success ...
"This study highlights the core strength of 3-D printing - the ability to very accurately reproduce anatomic relationships in space to a sub-millimeter level. With these models, it's almost a snap fit. Instead of making the middle ear prosthesis solid, you could perforate it to be a lattice that allows stem cells to grow onto it. The stem cells would mature into bone and become a permanent fix for patients with hearing loss."
The study was presented last week at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America and researchers are convinced this could help the problem of incorrectly sized prosthetic implants as these can be custom-designer for each patient.
The researchers took the middle linking bone from a few patients and created a 3D printed version. It was printed on a resin, which hardens when it is out under UV laser light.
This small piece of resin was then able to be guided to the correct place in the inner part of the ear, where normally the chance of this happening randomly would be 1 in 1,296.