By Bhaskar Chakravorti March 7
When four-month-old Lucy Boucher needed a kidney transplant, her 35-year-old father donated her a kidney. The transplant surgeons’ challenge was figuring out how to fit an adult kidney in an infant, connecting it with Lucy’s tiny blood vessels, making a complex procedure even more complicated and risky. It was recently revealed that Lucy was the first to have an adult-to-child kidney transplant aided by 3D printing. Realistic models of Lucy’s anatomy and her father’s kidney were essential to the procedure’s success.
Lucy Boucher’s big story is only a tiny part of a revolution in the making. While the nascent industry is struggling — “the 3D emperor has no clothes and is unable to print his own,” sniffed The Motley Fool — the medical uses of 3D technology could be the killer app that, ironically, saves lives and saves the industry.
There are three ways in which 3D printing can be life-saving:
1. Re-imagining medical imaging
2. Replacing tissues and organs
3. Designing human-centered medicines
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