Imagine yourself the parents of a healthy six month old child who suddenly stops breathing. Imagine finding out that your child’s trachea is collapsing and there is very little to be done. That’s what the parents of Kaiaba Gionfriddo faced.
The child’s doctors had heard that the University of Michigan was working with three dimensional printers and bio-absorbable polymers. Could they make a tracheal splint for the child? One that would allow his own body to continue to grow and eventually absorb the splint? They could. He’s now breathing normally, his trachea is growing normally and soon will be absorbed into his body.
Donor Gap: There are a number of things that can be or have been printed. Recently, students at the University of Connecticut created an artificial kidney via three dimensional printing. This kidney could save lives.
The United States Renal Data System reports that 90,000 people died in 2009 of end stage renal disease. There are an estimated 100,000 on the kidney transplant waiting list, with 2,500 names being added per month. Despite these numbers, only 14,000 kidney transplants occur in a given year.
What does this mean? There are several things to consider. The good side is that it means lives may be saved. It means that people may be able to walk again because a bone replacement could be printed. It means organ transplants may become organ replacements.
There’s a downside. People could start making substandard products this way. They could print things that were harmful. It could be deadly.
Regulating: The FDA has its hands full with stuff that is coming from other forms of research. It takes years and many clinical trials before anything is approved. There are also limits to what they can regulate. The FDA may not have the authority to regulate a printer. It’s never been done before.
Here is where a company called Computer Sciences Corporation comes in. CSC is in the forefront of this technology, providing expert guidance on a global scale. According to CSC, the FDA and other regulatory bodies are going to need that guidance.
CSC also pointed out that technology is developing faster than these bodies can regulate. “They either need to move faster or consider changing the way they regulate.”
This is an exciting time in medical science. The ability to save lives that couldn’t be saved last year is here. Now we have to make sure it’s used properly and by the right people.