Doctors have high hopes for 3D printing - FOX 13 News

Doctors have high hopes for 3D printing

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

A new exhibit at Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry is giving us a glimpse into the high-tech world of 3D printing. We're finding more and more applications might keep you healthy in the very near future.

From devices that help straighten our teeth, to custom fitted hearing aids, experts believe we're only beginning to realize how affordable and accessible innovation can be.

"We are at the starting floor of the possibilities of medicine. It's very exciting," said Anthony Palaez, director of innovation at MOSI.

3D printers make objects layer by layer. Some use gypsum-like powder to create tools like wrenches. Others use lasers and melt metal to make clamps for wheelchairs.

We found another device that transforms plastics into prosthetic hands.

"That's one of the exciting things about this technology," Palaez continued. "It's something everyone can ultimately have access to."

That access is allowing organizations to create low-cost prosthetics. One group, known as the "Open Hand Project," is creating plastic hands, using the same material used in Legos.

Clinical researchers are taking 3D printing a step forward, helping make new working body parts and organs using bio-printers.

"This is one of our printers and you can see it actually printing what is an ear structure," explained Dr. Anthony Atala.

In 2012, we traveled to Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to visit Dr. Atala's lab. He showed us how MRI images become 3D blueprints for rebuilding body parts, including functional bladders, arteries, and finger bones.

"We've already made miniature kidneys that we've been able to implant experimentally and make urine, so we know that the technology is feasible," explained Dr. Atala.

MOSI's exhibit runs through September.


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