TECHNOLOGY: 3-D Bioprinting’s Promise for Military Medicine
High Tech Help for Wounded Warriors?
Improvements in body armor and vehicle explosive protection design have led to fewer fatalities in Iraq and Afghanistan than in previous conflicts. But the survivors of roadside bombs and other explosions are still suffering catastrophic wounds and severe burns.
Now another technology breakthrough — additive manufacturing, more commonly known as 3-D printing — holds great promise for helping rebuild tissue, bone and muscle.
Additive manufacturing is already expected to have a profound effect on U.S. Army logistics and supply. Officials like Dale Ormond, director of the Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM), say it’s conceivable to imagine “the possibilities of three-dimensional printed textiles, metals, integrated electronics, biogenetic materials and even food,” he wrote in Army Technology magazine’s 3-D Printing issue.
And researchers today are beginning to manufacture biological materials like biopapers for regenerative skin cells and prototypes of replacments for external body parts like ears. “Many of the injuries soldiers receive in the field are not traditional. A lot of the medical community sees this as a new approach to medicine,” says Thomas Russell, director of the Army Research Laboratory. “We can 3-D scan injuries. We can replicate what those injuries are,” Surgeons and medics can practice on those specific types of injuries and provide better service to the warfighter, he adds.
A team of scientists at Fort Detrick, Maryland, is studying how to map a wound or severe burn with a laser and then print skin cells onto the patient using a 3-D bioprinter. Meanwhile, the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) has developed and patented thin polymer/hydrogel scaffold sheets, or “biopapers,” which act as substrates—the surface on which organisms grow–for cell and bioprinting.
To read more of this story and learn more about 3-D printing and other breakthroughs in military medicine, visit the free content page on the military healthcare link. The Institute for Defense and Government Advancement is sponsoring a conference on military healthcare in Arlington, Virginia in December.
Entry filed under: Army, National Security and Defense, Navy, News Developments, Photos, Technology. Tags: 3-D Printing, Additive Manufacturing, Army, Fort Detrick, Medical Technology, Naval Research Laboratory, Navy, Topics.