Researchers in the UK recently designed and fabricated anatomically shaped spinal implants using additive manufacturing for the first time. The work, published in the journal Biofabrication, will help in the development of customized implants in the future using data from patients’ own CT and MRI scans.
“The publication of our paper has helped us secure a number of new national and international collaborations,” says team leader Deepak Kalaskar of University College London. “Thanks to these, we are now developing complete custom-made solutions for spinal surgery that combine our current work on spinal implants and newly started studies for developing medical devices and instruments to improve surgical outcomes for complex spinal surgeries – such as those required for treating scoliosis. This work is being funded by Orthopaedic Research UK.”
And that is not all: by closely collaborating with clinicians, Kalaskar and colleagues now have realistic computational models that take into account various patient factors, including the type and severity of their spinal diseases. These models can easily be adopted by hospitals and are a base for further refining implant design using patients’ own pre-operative CT or MRI scans.
There have been several publications in this area from the wider scientific community since the publication of the Biofabrication paper and there is a flurry of interest in the subject across academia and industry. “Our work has been cited by 10 publications within one year of being published, and NewsRX, a US-based tech company, also published an article [in Biotech Weekly] on our research in July 2017 entitled ‘3D printing in spinal surgery’, calling it ‘cutting edge’.”
The researchers say they are now working with an industrial partner to develop custom-built spinal implants. “We have developed computational validation methods and processes to test these implants using individual patient data and will be further validating these via laboratory testing to confirm their translational potential,” says Kalaskar.
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