3D-printing human body parts

In a previous post we saw how new technologies aim at printing human body parts by means of 3D printers. Recently, an amazing result has been achieved by some Doctors at the University of Michigan: they managed to print in 3D a tracheal splint for a 20-month-old patient in order to restore his bronchus functionality. This website offers the description of the surgical operation they performed, step by step.

Abstract – Tracheobronchomalacia in newborns, which manifests with dynamic airway collapse and respiratory insufficiency, is difficult to treat. In an infant with tracheobronchomalacia, we implanted a customized, bioresorbable tracheal splint, created with a computer-aided design based on a computed tomographic image of the patient’s airway and fabricated with the use of laser-based three-dimensional printing, to treat this life-threatening condition.

Description – At birth at 35 weeks’ gestation, the patient did not have respiratory distress and otherwise appeared to be in normal health. At 6 weeks of age, he had chest-wall retractions and difficulty feeding. By 2 months of age, his symptoms progressed and he required endotracheal intubation to sustain ventilation. The workup revealed the following:

  • an anomalous origin and malposition of the pulmonary arteries, with crisscross anatomy;
  • right pulmonary-artery hypoplasia;
  • compression of the left mainstem bronchus between an abnormally leftward-coursing ascending aorta and an anteriorly displaced descending aorta;
  • air trapping;
  • postobstructive pneumonia.

Despite placement of a tracheostomy tube, mechanical ventilation, and sedation, ventilation that was sufficient to prevent recurring cardiopulmonary arrests could not be maintained.


We reasoned that the localized tracheobronchomalacia was the cause of this physiological abnormality and made a custom-designed and custom-fabricated resorbable airway splint. Our bellowed topology design, similar to the hose of a vacuum cleaner, provides resistance against collapse while simultaneously allowing flexion, extension, and expansion with growth. The splint was manufactured from polycaprolactone with the use of a three-dimensional printer.


windpipeThe institutional review board of the University of Michigan consulted with the Food and Drug Administration and approved the use of the device under the emergency-use exemption, and written informed consent was provided by the patient’s parents. After transposition of the right pulmonary artery and failed aortopexy, sutures were placed around the circumference of the malacic left bronchus splintand tied through interstices of the splint, and the bronchus was expanded. Subsequent bronchoscopy revealed normal patency of the bronchus without dynamic collapse and normal ventilatory variation in the size of the left lung. The partial pressure of carbon dioxide in venous blood decreased from 88 to 48 mm Hg. Seven days after placement of the airway splint, weaning from mechanical ventilation was initiated, and 21 days after the procedure, ventilator support was discontinued entirely and the child was discharged home with the tracheostomy in place. One year after surgery, imaging and endoscopy showed a patent left mainstem bronchus . No unforeseen problems related to the splint have arisen. Full resorption of the splint was estimated to occur in 3 years.


This case shows that high-resolution imaging, computer-aided design, and biomaterial three-dimensional printing together can facilitate the creation of implantable devices for conditions that are anatomically specific for a given patient.

other sources: one and two

update: one-page CV !

Hello! I’ve just finished updating my Curriculum Vitae. Now it’s a one-page PDF document that you can download in english (or in french, or in italian) from this section of my blog! 🙂


Bonjour! Je viens de mettre à jour mon Curriculum Vitae. Il fait une seule page en format PDF et vous pouvez le télécharger en français (ou en anglais, ou en italien) de cette section de mon blog! 🙂


Ciao! Ho appena aggiornato il mio Curriculum Vitae. Ora è un documento PDF di una sola pagina ed è possibile scaricarlo in italiano (o in inglese, o in francese) da questa sezione del mio blog! 🙂

ready to become a superhero ?

I wildly copy-paste here a very interesting article that I found on this webpage 🙂

A group of students from the Royal College of Art in London has developed headsets that allow the wearer to adjust their sight and hearing in the same way they’d control the settings on a TV or radio. The Eidos equipment was developed to enhance sensory perception by tuning in to specific sounds or images amongst a barrage of sonic and visual information, then applying effects to enhance the important ones. “We’ve found that while we experience the world as many overlapping signals, we can use technology to first isolate and then amplify the one we want,” say the designers.

first deviceThe first device is a mask that fits over the mouth and ears to let the wearer hear speech more selectively. A directional microphone captures the audio, which is processed by software to neutralise background noise. It’s then transmitted to the listener through headphones and a central mouthpiece, which passes the isolated sound directly to the inner ear via bone vibrations. “This creates the unique sensation of hearing someone talk right inside your head,” they say. The audio equipment could enable concert-goers to enhance specific elements of a band or orchestra. The designers also suggest that filtering out distracting background noise could improve focus in the classroom for children with ADHD and assist elderly people as their natural hearing ability deteriorates.

second deviceThe second device fits over the eyes and applies special effects – like those seen in long-exposure photography – to what the wearer is seeing in real-time. A head-mounted camera captures the imagery and sends it to a computer, where it’s processed by custom software to detect and overlay movement. It’s then played to the wearer inside the headset, allowing them to see patterns and traces of movement that would normally be undetectable. Possible applications could include sports, allowing teams to visualise and improve technique in real time, and performing arts where effects normally limited to video could be applied to live performance.


Two prototypes styled with faceted surfaces and graduated perforations were presented at the Work in Progress exhibition at the Royal College of Art earlier this year. “Our final objects convey the mixing of digital technology with the organic human body,” explain the team. The Eidos team includes students Tim BouckleyMillie Clive-Smith, Mi Eun Kim and Yuta Sugawara.


Gender Equality & Adam’s Apple

aristoteleEven if in the 4th century BC Aristotle firmly believed that women were inferior to men (he defined them some kind of subordinate, deformed male, unfinished man… a friendly buddy this Aristotle, wasn’t he?), we all know this is not true. Most guys (myself included, for sure) are hopeless cases for like doing the ironing or properly folding a shirt… but this doesn’t justify any ranking between genders 🙂

Despite this, nowadays many people keep a sexist attitude and male chauvinists find it funny to look for differences between man and woman. Since such people are usually very clever (…), they may endorse their opinions by pointing out things that men have and women don’t. One of the most cited ones is the Adam’s Apple, typical of men and absent in women’s neck. But… wait! Apparently this is not true 🙂

larynx and tracheaThe Adam’s apple is technically known as the laryngeal prominence and is present in both men and women. The trick is just that this prominence is more visible in men than in women. Inside the human neck there is the larynx, an awesome voice box that houses the vocal chords and manipulates the volume and the pitch of our voice. The larynx and the trachea, which is located just below, are protected by a host of cartilages layers that serve as a protection for the vocal chords and as an attachment for several laryngeal muscles. The largest of these layers is the thyroid cartilage, which is positioned externally and forms the laryngeal skeleton. The thyroid cartilage has a sort of protrusion where the two anterior cartilage laminae meet and fuse: it’s the Adam Apple. The shape of such bump is an acute angle (about 90°) in men and an open arc (about 120°) in women. That’s why the Adam’s Apple is usually clearly visible and palpable in men, while it’s hardly perceived in women.

thyroid cartilage

Girls and boys are born with similarly sized thyroid cartilage. During puberty, the boys’ testosterone levels increase and their voices change. This causes a development of their Adam’s Apples, which become noticeably bigger and make their voices changeGrown men have larger voice boxes, speak in deeper tones than women and usually have more prominent Adam’s Apples.

adam's appleAs we can learn from this website, the origins of the term Adam’s Apple “go all the way back to the Biblical event where Eve gave Adam a forbidden fruit (from the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil), which is commonly misrepresented as an apple.  The term then basically comes from the legend that when he ate the apple, the piece got stuck in his throat and made a lump“. Then they got banished from the Garden and we all know the story… And that, kids, is how we ran into male chauvinists!

sources: one, two, three