Customizing Biohealth Solutions with 3D-Printing

From pharmaceuticals to hearts, Ohio is applying this innovative tech
Aaron Pitts, Managing Director of Biohealth, JobsOhio
October 27, 2017

Nine-year-old Ethan Bradley from Grafton, Ohio, struggled his whole life with heterotaxy syndrome, a rare condition involving abnormally placed internal organs that affect heart function and oxygenation levels. Ethan was experiencing complications, even after several surgeries. So, his doctor directed him and his family to the Cleveland Clinic for consultation on his condition.

Doctors said Ethan’s heart had two right sides and that the surgery to correct the deformity would be complicated. Before the surgery, Dr. Hani Najm, chair of pediatric and congenital heart surgery at the clinic, ordered a 3-D model to be made of Ethan’s heart.

Dr. Najm sat in his office examining the 3-D printed model to identify Ethan’s specific problems. After evaluating options and analyzing scenarios, Dr. Najm decided how the surgical team should proceed.

After a successful surgery and several weeks of recovery, a once bedridden Ethan is now experiencing drastic improvements. Ethan’s oxygen increased by 95 percent, and he is running around his house with big plans to take on basketball.

Ethan’s story is one of the many miracles made possible with the help of 3-D printing.

3-D printing, also called additive manufacturing, produces three dimensional objects out of digital files. This rapidly evolving technology uses an additive process, printing successive layers of a material until the object is created. Although 3-D printing has been around since the 1980s, it wasn’t until the last decade that it started receiving major attention in industries like aerospace, automotive and biohealth.

Over the last few years, Ohio companies have been capitalizing on opportunities to utilize 3-D printing. Manufacturers, in particular, have found ways to use 3-D printing. But biohealth companies are benefiting from this technology, too. Biohealth is one of Ohio’s most prosperous industries. Ohio is home to health care systems like Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, the third best children’s hospital in the U.S., and to the hospital that operated on Ethan: the Cleveland Clinic, voted the No. 1 heart program in the U.S. for 22 consecutive years and the second best hospital in the U.S.

Biohealth companies from across the state are using 3-D printing to improve health care practices and patient care.

In 2016, Ohio-based Aprecia Pharmaceuticals introduced the first 3-D printed, FDA-approved drug, Spritam. By using 3-D printing to make Spritam, which is used to treat epilepsy, Aprecia can make high-dose pills in a rapidly disintegrating form that are easy to take.

NextStep Arthropedix and NextStep Extremities are divisions of Theken, an Akron-based company. NextStep designs and develops joint and extremity implants to improve health care utilizing innovative ideas and technologies, such as 3-D printing. The company’s iNSitu Hip System is an artificial hip replacement system with a 3-D printed titanium alloy acetabular cup made to imitate bone and integrate more easily into the body.

Bastech in Dayton has been working with 3-D printing since the 1990s, providing prototyping, manufacturing and engineering solutions to a variety of industries, including biohealth. 3-D printing systems provide medical professionals with a variety of options for practicing and training for difficult medical procedures. The company makes 3-D printed medical implants, medical instruments, anatomical models and patient-specific items.

A leader in MRI technology, Quality Electrodynamics (QED) in Mayfield, Ohio, needed a way to design custom MRI coil housings. QED uses 3-D printing to verify designs and test early prototypes for their products to make sure that design options have been fully explored. Rather than waiting weeks or even months for a product, QED can get 3-D printed prototypes within a few days. QED also uses 3-D printing to make 81 production fixtures, including traveling trays, which move parts around during assembly.

Science fiction becomes reality with 3-D printing. Customized treatments and solutions are possible with the multitude of options that 3-D printing offers.  Though 3-D printing is still being researched and developed, there is no doubt that it will play an increasingly important role in biohealth. Ohio is proud to be a force in 3-D opportunities that will add to its already robust and world-renowned biohealth industry.