May 2019 Newsmax
A South African doctor and his medical team became the first in history to restore the hearing of a 35-year-old man using 3D printing technology. Professor Mashudu Tshifularo from the University of Pretoria Faculty of Health at the Steve Biko Academic hospital was able to recreate the bones of the ear with 3D printing — the anvil, hammer, stirrup, and ossicles that make up the inner ear, and could then surgically replace the damaged ones.
The surgery took one and a half hours and experts say the innovative technique may be the answer to those of all ages suffering from hearing loss. “The patients will get their hearing back immediately but since they will be wrapped in bandages, only after two weeks, when they are removed, will they be able to tell the difference,” Tshifularo said. He explained that he used titanium to replace the damaged ossicles because the material is biocompatible with human tissue and an endoscope to do the replacement so the transplant is performed quickly, with minimal scarring.
The best part of the surgery, say experts, is that it will be available to patients of all ages, from newborn to the elderly. “It also means that we have done something new in the world and people will remember us for that,” said the professor, adding that 3D technology is “allowing us to do things we never thought we could.”
Last month, scientists in Israel printed a small 3D heart using human tissue that included vessels, collagen, and biological molecules which they labelled a “breakthrough,” hoping one day 3D printing would render organ donation obsolete. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 3D printing is now being used in a variety of medical devices such as instrumentation, implants such as cranial plates and hip joints and external prostheses such as hands. “Scientists are researching how to use the 3D printing process to manufacture living organs such as a heart or liver, but this research is in it’s early stages of development,” says the FDA.