Doctors 'Print' Airway Tube So Boy Can Breathe

3D technology saves life of Ohio tot

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted May 22, 2013 5:34 PM CDT

(Newser) – In a medical first, doctors used plastic particles and a 3D laser printer to create an airway splint to save the life of a baby boy who used to stop breathing nearly every day. It's the latest advance from the booming field of regenerative medicine, making body parts in the lab. In the case of Kaiba Gionfriddo, doctors didn't have a moment to spare. Because of a birth defect, the little Ohio boy's airway kept collapsing, causing his breathing to stop and often his heart, too. Doctors in Michigan had been researching artificial airway splints but had not implanted one in a patient yet.

In a single day, they "printed out" 100 tiny tubes, using computer-guided lasers to stack and fuse thin layers of plastic instead of paper and ink to form various shapes and sizes. The next day, with special permission from the FDA, they implanted one of these tubes in Kaiba, the first time this has been done. Suddenly, a baby that doctors had said would probably not leave the hospital alive could breathe normally for the first time. He was 3 months old when the operation was done last year and is nearly 19 months old now. "He's a pretty healthy kid right now," says a doctor at CS Mott Children's Hospital of the University of Michigan, where the operation was done. It's described in tomorrow's New England Journal of Medicine. Independent experts praised the work and the potential for 3D printing to create more body parts to solve unmet medical needs.

Kaiba Gionfriddo is hugged by parents April and Bryan outside their Youngstown, Ohio.   (Mark Stahl)
In this photo provided by the University of Michigan Health System, a device is shown similar to the one used to save the life of Kaiba Gionfriddo.   ((AP Photo/University of Michigan Health System))
Kaiba Gionfriddo plays with the family's dog, Bandit, outside his Ohio home.   (Mark Stahl)
Kaiba Gionfriddo plays outside his Youngstown, Ohio, home.   (Mark Stahl)
Kaiba Gionfriddo plays with his mother, April, outside his Ohio home.   (Mark Stahl)
  (F. Duckett)
Scott Hollister, Ph.D., left, and Glenn Green, M.D., of the University of Michigan, pose for a photo.   ((AP Photo/University of Michigan Health System))
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