As it turns out, you can make just about anything with a 3-D printer and make it work.
When 12-year-old Minghao of China was diagnosed a couple of months ago with Ewing's sarcoma, a bone cancer typically found in children, his doctors opted for an alternative to the standard treatment. They discovered a tumor on the second vertebra of his spine, and, in lieu of the common titanium tube bone replacement, they decided to put their 3-D printing research and technology to work, reported Reuters.
The team at Peking University Third Hospital in Beijing created a perfect replica of the piece of the boy's spine, which did not require surgical cement or screws upon implantation. Simplifying the procedure in this way means Minghao, whom Reuters refers to as "Qin" in the video above, will not only be able to recover more quickly from the procedure, but also maintain a greater range of motion in his neck. The vertebra was printed out of titanium powder and with small pores throughout so that his future bone growth will bond with the device.
He is the first person to be implanted with a vertebra made from a 3-D printer, and after the successful 5-hour procedure in August, reported CCTV News, he is recovering.
The technology of 3-D printing has made several waves in the medical world recently, and has benefited younger generations.
In 2013, the Associated Press reported that doctors were able to save an Ohio baby's life by implanting an airway splint that was made on a 3-D printer. The baby boy had a birth defect that, before the successful surgery, caused his airway to collapse several times, stopping his breathing and sometimes his heart.
Aaron Brown, a native of Grand Rapids, Michigan, has turned his love for the technology into superhero prosthetics for children in need of physical assistance as well as an emotional boost. As a volunteer for Enabling the Future, he created modifications for the organization's free prosthetic hand design to resemble Wolverine's claw, and the positive reactions from the kids at his local children's hospital have inspired him to experiment with other superhero designs in the near future.