West Point researching bio-printed bandages and organs for field care

West Point researching bio-printed bandages and organs for field care

The US Army has been making strides to incorporate 3D printing into their workflow like using Bio-printed organs. A few weeks ago we reported how Marines in the III Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa were using a 3D metal printer to facilitate repairs.

Recent news about Military strides focuses on twenty-six final-year cadets at West Point, a United States Military Academy in New York who are conducting research on the methods and benefits of bio-printing in the field.

The research aims to create 3D-printed bandages loaded with stem cells to treat burns in the field. The research is also centred around making bio-printed menisci and livers, and hopefully, one day even building bio-engineered blood vessels to make organs viable.

Though the research program is still in its infancy, the researchers have been able to 3D print viable products that have helped victims in the field.

Lt. Col. Jason Barnhill, the life science program director at West Point, pointed out a case example where he was able to bio-print a number of bandages within just five minutes. The bandages, designed to slowly release antibiotics into wounds helped a victim while on a trip to Africa recently.

A test for the research’s viability was positive and the first demonstration of cyber manufacturing where complex designs were transmitted and produced in a remote location, when Barnhill, during his trip abroad was also able to bio-print a meniscus. A meniscus is a disk-shaped piece of cartilage that absorbs shock inside a joint. Barnhill was able to get a 3D image delivered to him by email from the United States to his remote location to print the cartilage.

Barnhill was not only able to bio-print a meniscus, but he was also able to fabricate surgical objects such as scalpels and hemostats that could be manufactured and sterilized on-site.

“We have to make sure the body doesn’t reject the new bio-printed meniscus and also the emplacement.” Cadet Thatcher Shepard, a life science major working on the meniscus project, also shared insights that the meniscus and liver created by West Point cadets this year won’t be able to be implanted and used.

“There can be difficulties with that. Right now, we’re trying to just make a viable meniscus. Then, we’ll look into further research to be able to work on methods of actually placing it into the body.”

“It’s kind of like putting the cart before the horse,” Cadet Michael Deegan, a life science major working on one of the blood vessel projects, said “You’ve printed it, great, but what’s the point of printing it if it’s not going to survive inside your body? Being able to work on that fundamental step that’s actually going to make these organs viable is what drew me and my teammates to be able to do this.”

The thing that makes bio-bandages such a valuable option to consider in the treatment of burns in that the cells in the material or are taken from the injured soldier to print the bio-bandages catered specifically to a soldier’s wound for the treatment.

This is very important because it will be less likely for the body to reject the implanted organ since its the patient’s own cells.

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