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CSIRO partnership leads to first successful implantation of 3D printed titanium and polymer sternum and rib cage

Above photo: A US patient has recieved a customised sternum and partial ribcage made from 3D printed titanium and combined with Anatomics’ ‘PoreStar’ technology/ Credit: CSIRO

A partnership between the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) of Australia and Australian medical device company, Anatomics, has led to the first successful implantation of a 3D printed titanium and polymer sternal and rib cage in a New York patient.

Ms. Penelope Heller was diagnosed with chondrosarcoma (a rare bone cancer) in 2014 and she had to have her cancer affected sternum removed. Her surgeon fashioned a replacement sternum and ribcage using off-the-shelf solutions and while the procedure effectively removed the cancer, ongoing pain and problems breathing made post-op life unpleasant.

On August 2, 2017 the 20-year-old American underwent further surgery to replace her implant with a customised sternum and partial ribcage made from 3D printed titanium and combined with Anatomics' 'PoreStar' technology, a unique porous polyethylene material providing "bone-like" architecture to facilitate tissue integration.

According to the press release, it is the first time this technology has been used in the United States and only the second time in the world that a 3D-printed composite sternum and ribcage has been implanted.

3D printing has significant advantages over traditional manufacturing methods, particularly for biomedical applications. It allows for advanced personalisation of implants, so that they uniquely fit their recipients, as well as rapid manufacture, which could mean the difference between life and death for a patient waiting for surgery.

CSIRO's Director of Manufacturing Dr. Keith McLean said the operation is the latest success story for the CSIRO-Anatomics partnership which began in 2014.

The two parties produced the world’s first sternum and rib cage prosthetics for a cancer patient in Spain in 2015, and another for a British man who received the implant in 2016, after his sternum was removed following a rare disease.

The 2016 implantation marked another world-first of a composite 3D printed titanium and polyethylene polymer prosthesis.

Anatomics Executive Chairman Dr. Paul D'Urso said over the past 25 years there have been thousands of successful Anatomics' implantations in patients in Europe, Australia and now the U.S.

"Anatomics' advanced capabilities in personalised healthcare have opened new doors for patients in need of implants that are customised for them rather than having to use mass produced 'off-the-shelf' devices that don't fit as well," he said.

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