The past several years have seen information and knowledge about the process of 3-D printing, or additive manufacturing, grow by leaps and bounds. One of the strongest factors in its use has been its developments in healthcare, as the free-form existence of the technology has already helped improve thousands of lives worldwide. Doctors using the technology continue to see more breakthroughs, and now more than ever their advances are coming faster than ever.

One recent improvement in the medical community is expected to disrupt medical implants. Engineering.com reported that a team of researchers at Louisiana Tech University has managed to create a new method that can use normal, consumer-grade 3-D printers and materials to create custom medical implants with antibacterial and chemically therapeutic compounds that can better target drug delivery.

The doctoral students and research staffers in the university's biomedical engineering and nanosystems engineering programs worked together, finally creating filament extruders able to make medical-quality 3-D printing filaments, which can improve the delivery of medical implants or catheters.

"After identifying the usefulness of the 3-D printers, we realized there was an opportunity for rapid prototyping using this fabrication method," said Jeffery Weisman, a biomedical engineering doctoral student, to the news source. "Through the addition of nanoparticles and/or other additives, this technology becomes much more viable using a common 3-D printing material that is already biocompatible. The material can be loaded with antibiotics or other medicinal compounds, and the implant can be naturally broken down by the body over time."

Normally, most antibiotic implants are not able to break down in the body and can require surgery. In contrast, the custom-printed filaments are made of bioplastics, which can be reabsorbed by the body, which can make it even easier to implement a variety of different medical advances in patients.

Face implant approved by FDA
CNet added that a 2013 development from Oxford Performance Materials, an implant that can replace up to 75 percent of a patient's skull, has recently garnered Food and Drug Administration approval, which will allow for a wider adoption of its technology. The implants themselves operate mechanically, like real bone, and can match to a patient's anatomy in a way that drastically reduces the cost of procedures necessary for regular facial reconstruction.

"With the clearance of our 3-D printed facial device, we now have the ability to treat these extremely complex cases in a highly effective and economical way, printing patient-specific maxillofacial implants from individualized MRI or CT digital image files from the surgeon," Scott DeFelice, CEO of Oxford Performance Materials, was quoted as saying in a statement.

Blood recycling another possibility
Research and Development Magazine wrote that in some instances, it's possible for patients' religions to have an effect on their medical treatments. Notably, Jehovah's Witnesses cannot receive potentially-life-saving blood transfusions, which are a violation of their faith. That, too, may become less of a concern due to a new production development. 

The new machine, called the Hemosep, can recycle blood from a patient who would otherwise require transfusions. It can also reduce the volume of blood needed in a transfusion, which can drastically improve reserves of donated blood. The machine has already been tested in more than 100 Turkish heart operations, and trials will continue in the United Kingdom.

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