The five speakers for this energy-filled 3DHEALS Melbourne Medtech Innovation webinar feature recent advances in the Melbourne (and perhaps Australian) MedTech ecosystem from unique angles that are relevant to the 3D printing and bioprinting community. The speaker bios can be found on this page. I would also direct the readers to a more in-depth and regularly updated 3DHEALS Guide focusing on the healthcare 3D Printing ecosystem in Australia here.
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Computer Driven Design
Can computer algorithms help with designing complex and customized biomedical devices? Based on professor Tang’s presentation, what was just theoretical is now a reality. 3D printing presents unique opportunities where computational design can be particularly helpful especially in terms of handling complex geometries, different materials (including biological materials like cells, etc), and microstructures of materials. The current challenges, he suggests, lie in a lack of readily available software solutions. That is what his research is based on. He and his lab have created several open-source projects including The Intralattice, which can help users with customized lattice designs that can achieve osteointegration and specific mechanical property requirements. The software uses AI/ML algorithms with generating the lattices.
In addition to functional structures, professor Tang went into how computational design, AI/ML can help with designing for materials for 3D printing to generate a new class of structures for biomedical purposes. He then gave four case studies to demonstrate potential future applications, including 4D printing.
Seeing 3D Cell Culture and Living Tissues Using Confocal Endomicroscopy
Dr. Lindsey Bussau’s presentation on handheld confocal endomicroscopy to visualize thicker, living tissues in real-time, in 3D as opposed to many shortcomings of conventional microscopy.
Confocal endomicroscopy can not only accurate demonstrate 3D structure of living tissue, but also able to monitor cellular changes. For example, being able to detect active inflammatory bowel disease when there is an increase in cellular apoptosis and shedding along the gastrointestinal mucosa. This kind of real time imaging can also monitor the effectiveness of medication. This technology has also been used to monitor 3D culture and likely potentially useful for monitoring and learning about 3D bioprinting.
3D Printed Cadavers for Surgical Training
Mark Roe founded Fusetec with one goal in mind: Breaking 1700 century habits of training on cadavers.
Fusetec creates 3D printed simulation models that not only replace cadavers but also provide access to pathologies in a controllable and systematic fashion. Surgeons will no longer be at the mercy of randomly assigned cadavers or body samples but can focus on training skills that are needed.
Using Diamonds for 3D Printed Medical Devices
Kate Fox is an Associate Professor in the School of Electrical and Biomedical Engineering. In addition to her own research, she broadened her discussion to include several ongoing biomedical 3D printing projects at RMIT. The project that is in particular impressive is combining customized bone tumor surgery using 3D printing and robotic surgery. This reminds me of a New York-based startup called Monogram. Another ongoing RMIT project is to create better radiotherapy phantoms using 3D printing. We have published quite a few blogs both in Expert Corner and From Academia columns recently.
Professor Fox focused the second half of her talk on the latest research focusing on using diamond as a new material for 3D printing medical devices, either by using it as a coating material or as a component of new hybrid material (for example, diamond plus titanium). Diamond is after all just a different molecular form of carbon, and therefore, conceivably more biocompatible among other beneficial features (see slide below).
Her research showed that diamond coated implants demonstrated higher biocompatibility and lower bacteria growth, showing promise of a more superior material for future biomedical implants.
Building A Multidisciplinary 3D Printing Team for Medicine
Last but not the least, professor Peter Lee from ARCCMIT demonstrated the importance of creating an optimized multidisciplinary team to tackle challenging surgical cases with a story of a complex temporomandibular joint replacement in a young man with a congenital facial deformity. The idea to solution workflow from this case eventually became the foundation of a new startup called OMX Solutions. Prof. Lee and colleagues at ARCCMIT aim to use the new foundation program the institute to train the next generation of biomedical engineers.