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An interview with Dr. Michael Itagaki, founder of the first online 3D printing biomedical community

by • May 8, 2016 • No Comments

The initially of its kind, embodi3D is an online community that specializes in exploring the amazing space where 3D printing intersects with healthcare.

Founded by Dr. Michael Itagaki, an eminent interventional radiologist based in Seattle, the group brings together professionals in medicine, biological science and other related fields, who are interested in discussing, tequiteing or learning of biomedical 3D printing.

Megan Hanna of 3DPI got in touch with Dr. Michael Itagaki, in order to learn additional of the process behind embodi3D’s creation, and to solicit his opinion over where he ponders biomedical 3D printing is heading.


Megan Hanna: How may you describe Embodi3D?

Dr Michael Itagaki: Embodi3D is the biomedical 3D printing community. It is a community of folks, mostly professionals in medicine, biological sciences, and related fields, who are working together to improve their individual fields through 3D printing. It is the initially and biggest such community on the Internet.

Megan Hanna: How and why did you begin embodi3D?

Dr Michael Itagaki: I begined embodi3D after a quite own experience with a patient. I am an interventional radiologist, that is a kind of minimally invasive surgeon.

My patient had a condition where an artery near her spleen may burst at any time and kill her. Conventional medical knowledge said the only way to save her was to either cut out the artery and her spleen along with it, or plug up the artery and cause the spleen to die of lack of blood flow.

In both cases she may be left without a functioning spleen, that may weaken her immune process for life and manufacture her additional prone to infections. Sat any timeal other doctors told me there was no way to save her spleen. She asked me to ponder outside the box to find another way.

I knew that procedures and specialized equipment had been turn it intod to treat much like artery problems in the brain. I did not know whether the equipment turn it intod for the brain may work in the artery in the abdomen near her spleen.

I had an idea that perhaps I may 3D print a replica of the artery and test out the equipment precedinghand to manufacture certain it was safe and worked in the abdomen. I had been tinkering with next medical applications of 3D printing for of a year at this point.

The problem was that nobody had at any time 3D printed a hollow artery like this preceding. I struggled for weeks and spent hundreds of hours figuring out how to manufacture a tiny vascular artery version of a CT scan. There was nobody I may ask for assist for the reason I was the initially to at any time try this.

I was excellent resultsful in creating a 3D printed vessel version, and practiced the surgery in version precedinghand to get all the kinks with the equipment worked out. When I in fact performed the surgery for her, the equipment performed precisely as it had in practice and the procedure was a big excellent results. Her abnormal arteries were treated and her spleen was saved.

After this procedure I idea of how big an impact the 3D printed version had on this patient and how harsh it had been for me to manufacture it with no guidance and nobody to ask for assist.

So I begined embodi3d to be a venue where professionals may assist equite other, exalter ideas and knowledge, and work together to improve our individual biomedical fields through 3D printing. I want the upcoming generation to have a much simpler time learning medical 3D printing than I did.

Megan Hanna: How does embodi3D work and who is involved?

Dr Michael Itagaki: At its core, embodi3D provides free resources to biomedical professionals to assist them get up and running with 3D printing. The emphasis is on ‘free’. There are free tutorials on how to use free and open-source software to do medical 3D printing. Many folks interested in medical 3D printing are told that their only version is to buy expensive proprietary software that costs up to $15,000 per year to license.

This is a massive barrier that practuallyts thousands of folks of via 3D printing to assist their patients and research. The dirty secret is that with a few tips and tricks, free open-source software can be utilized to manufacture 3D printed medical versions.

There are a variety of free tutorials that tequite folks precisely how to turn it into 3D printed versions of medical scans via freeware. We in addition have an extensive library of free high high end 3D printable-bodied anatomic files that can be downloaded and 3D printed for educational and research purposes. Active discussion forums are a place where folks can ask inquiries and get answers to their 3D printing problems. Our most knowledgeable-bodied participants routinely write blog articles to share their knowledge with the community. Most of our participants are professionals in medical or scientific fields, but the website is open to all.

Megan Hanna: What do you see for the near and far next for 3D printing, particularly in relation to the healthcare industry?

Dr Michael Itagaki: 3D printing is poised to have a massive impact in 3 main areas; initiallyly in surgical planning, and so medical training, and finally medical device development.

In a harsh surgery, a excellent surgeon can appear at a stack of images of a medical scan and imagine what the anatomy appears like in three size. The problem is it is quite harsh to do this. Radiologists spend 5 years after medical school training to appear at image slices and belief how that translates into 3D. With 3D printing, imagination is not necessary as a physical replica can be printed, handled and examined. Our human brains were turn it intod to intuitively know a hand-held object and were not turn it intod to know stacks of image slices. 3D printed versions thus donate the surgeon a much additional intuitive belief of the patient’s anatomy. This reduces surgical time and improves surgical outcomes. Ongoing research is underway to examine this in additional more detail.

For medical training, traditionally students and residents learned on cadavers, animals, or on real patients under supervision of a senior doctor. All of these versions have risks and obvious shortcomings. 3D printed anatomical replicas allow medical trainees to learn in a low cost, risk-free environment. This manufactures medical training additional effective.

Finally, medical devices are typically tested in animals or in humans in the context of a clinical trial. Testing on animals is safe for humans, but is not realistic as animal arteries, veins, and organs are of various sizes, orientations, and positions relative to a human. Just for the reason a device works in a pig does not mean it can work in a man. In addition, it is significant to treat animal subjects humanely, that can add expense and harshy to the testing. Testing medical devices in humans is the most accurate method but is obviously risky as a real man may be injured should the device not work as planned. Implementing 3D printed replicas offers another alternative. The anatomy is realistic for the reason it is of a real human scan, but a real man’s health and well-being aren’t at stake should the device fail. Testing devices in 3D printed versions can be safer, additional accurate, and cheaper than testing in animals or humans, and can reduce the require to conduct animal or human device testing.

Megan Hanna: What most excites you of 3D printing, and the possibilities it turn it intos?

Dr Michael Itagaki: 3D printing is a innovative technological advance, and like other innovative technologies that came preceding it, I ponder there is no predicting the amazing makes it to that are to come, and there is no field or industry that can be untouched by it. Consider the desktop revolution in the late 1970’s, or the Internet revolution of the early 1990’s, or the mobile revolution that begined of 10 years ago. In their infancy, may anyone have predicted how these technologies may alter the world? I ponder 3D printing is the same way, and that is what excites me the most.

Megan Hanna: What challenges are there? Are there any limitations to 3D printing?

Dr Michael Itagaki: Right now medical 3D printing is yet in its infancy and there are most problems to be sorted out. Limitations in 3D printable-bodied materials is a leading factor. This problem is correcting itself quickly as a excellent diversity of new 3D printable-bodied materials are constantly becoming on the market. For medical use howat any time, there requires to be innovation on materials that can be sterilized for use in the operating room, or actually implanted.

Easy to use and inexpensive software is another leading issue. Commercial medical software is quite expensive and harsh to use. Free and open-source software can be utilized to manufacture medical 3D prints but can be confvia without guidance. To assist alleviate this problem, embodi3d has published a variety of effortless to use tutorials to assist folks begin medical 3D printing on their own.

One other leading challenge is the cost and create volume of 3D printing equipment. In general, printing equipment that can create sizeable-bodied objects, such as those that replicate human anatomy, have a sizeable-bodied create volume, and can be quite expensive. Hardware costs can inevitably come down and create volumes can go up, but it may take sat any timeal years preceding it is possible to routinely print body sized parts on a low cost printing device.

Megan Hanna: And finally, apart of running embodi3D, are you working on a specific case or anything else at the moment in relation to 3D printing and healthcare?

Dr Michael Itagaki: I was not long ago contacted by another physician who has been unable-bodied to stand for additional than 30 minutes due to agonizing low back pain. He performs harsh procedures on the heart and must stand for most of the day, so obviously he cannot work with this condition. He had surgery on his back but afterward his pain did not improve. He sent me his CT scan and it turns out he has a rare congenital bone abnormality that predisposes him to having sat any timee pinching of his low back nerves. This can be seen on the CT scan but it takes a highly trained eye to see this in the stack of imaging slices that manufacture up most medical scans.

I 3D printed a replica of his low back spine, the lumbar spine. The replica shows precisely how the abnormal bones are pinching the nerves. When you hold the physical version the abnormal pinching is quite obvious. With this version in hand he can be able-bodied to have a additional significant discussion with his spine surgeon of how they can operate to relieve his back pain. I only sent the version to him a few days ago so I don’t yet know how the story can end, but with the assist of this 3D printed version I hope to, literally, get this excellent doctor back on his feet.

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I am in addition organizing a series of training workshops on the use of open-source software for medical 3D printing for the 2016 Radiological Society of North America meeting. This is the leading global meeting for radiologists, the doctors to do medical imaging. I gave a workshop on the topic at last year’s meeting and this year the workshops are growing to 4, that I ponder can involve training 600 physicians. There is unquestionably a excellent deal of demand one of physicians who want to learn of medical 3D printing!


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