January 20, 2014
Ned Snyder IV, MD
3-D printing is taking over the tech world by giving producers, and consumers, a way to print whatever 3-D object they want with plastic. Toys, plastic machine parts, and even guns have been printed by users, who upload their plans and models onto the Internet for others to use. Researchers are taking the gains of these printers and utilizing them for even grandeur, more complex applications.
Printing Living Cells for Breast Reconstruction
One such research outfit, TeVido BioDevices in Austin, Texas, have utilized 3-D printing to print living cells out of tissue. Dr. Ned Snyder IV, a board certified plastic surgeon in Austin who specializes in breast reconstruction, sat down with The Plastic Surgery Channel to discuss the promising research and how it could be a game-changer in his specialized field of breast reconstruction.
With over 200,000 women diagnosed annually in the U.S. with breast cancer, 60 percent choose lumpectomies to remove cancerous tissue. The procedure leaves the natural breast abnormally shaped, a problem that Dr. Snyder routinely addresses in the operating room. By utilizing liposuction to remove fat from elsewhere on the body, Snyder preps the removed fat and places it into the areas where tissue has been removed during the lumpectomy. “While the process works, there is a limit to how much we can put in at a time, and often two to three procedures are required to get it right,” says Snyder. “If we had a way to produce enough tissue to replace the space in one surgery, outcomes and results would drastically improve.”
In comes TeVido’s 3-D printed cells. By taking a sample of a patient’s own tissue, the company is able to use their specially designed printer to literally print out fat cells that surgeons can use to replace removed tissue during lumpectomies. Instead of removing fat from the patient, processing it and reinserting, surgeons would have printed tissue ready to go before the surgery so that it could be done in a single operation. “The lumpectomy operation is already an outpatient procedure where the patient is ready to go home afterwards,” says Snyder. “With the printed tissue, we could operate so that a patient’s tissue is removed, the 3-D printed tissue is grafted in its place, and the patient leaves nearly, if not exactly, the way that they entered, that same day. No more procedures required.”
Printed Tissues, “A Game Changer” for Surgeons and Patients
In addition, the sampled tissue has been used to print 3-D areola and nipple complexes, an area of the breast that is often removed during mastectomies to treat breast cancer. “The idea that I could have a 3-D printed areola and nipple ready to go in the OR after performing a mastectomy would be a game-changer,” says Snyder. “Early results from the printing show that the printed tissues are nearly identical to the tissue removed, and are made completely of the patient’s own tissue. They resemble a skin graft, and would be implanted as such.”
While the technology looks very promising, years and research dollars remain before it is ready for the OR. “I greatly look forward to being able to use it, and I’m confident it’ll be in my hands in the next few years,” says Snyder. “Especially the areola and nipple complex. For women who have to undergo breast cancer and surgical treatment, the ease at which this technology could quicken their recovery would truly be both a physical and psychological benefit.”