3D-printed organ models have shown a lot of promise in medicine by providing doctors with a tangible representation of an organ being studied. While these models are great at mimicking the size and external appearance of their biological counterparts, otherwise they are typically not very useful.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota have now developed 3D-printed organ models that are a bit more functional. Not only do they accurately replicate the appearance of an organ, but they also accurately mimic both the external and internal anatomical structures, mechanical properties, and feel. This was accomplished by developing customized silicone-based inks that precisely match the mechanical properties of the biological tissues being mimicked and then fabricating the organ models on custom-built 3D printers.
The researchers also attached flexible, 3D-printed sensors to the organ models that measure force and pressure. This allows researchers and clinicians to observe the effects of compression tests and the application of sutures and other surgical tools on the model, which could better train surgeons on how much force they can apply without damaging tissues.
Researchers are also investigating how to print with multiple inks to create more complex organ models. Such models could even mimic the presence of a tumor or deformity, so surgeons can test different strategies for removing tumors or correcting anatomical complications.
Take a look at a brief video explaining the organ models:
Study in Advanced Materials Technologies: 3D Printed Organ Models with Physical Properties of Tissue and Integrated Sensors…
(hat tip: MDO)