Medical AMMetal Additive ManufacturingOrthopedic Implants

Black Fungus patients receive metal 3D printed face implants

Thanks to IIT Madras and ZorioX Innovation labs, approximately 50 implants have already been placed in patients from weaker economic areas

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According to the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras), researchers from the institute, in partnership with ZorioX Innovation labs, a start-up founded by Dental Surgeons in Chennai, have developed metal 3D printed face implants for patients suffering from Black Fungus, which has been reported in COVID-19 patients as well as those with uncontrolled diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and other medical conditions. Approximately 50 implants have already been placed in patients from weaker economic areas.

The outbreak of black fungus disease, also known as ‘Mucormycosis’, has been a cause of great concern in India. One of the most devastating effects of this disease is the loss of facial features, which can have a profound impact on the patient’s mental and emotional well-being. Therefore, the reconstruction of faces lost due to black fungus is in high demand. Reports suggest that about 60,000 mucormycosis cases have been registered in India post-COVID.

The fungus responsible for mucormycosis can invade the tissues of the face, causing necrosis and disfigurement. In severe cases, patients may lose their nose, eyes, or even their entire face. Furthermore, the loss of vital organs can affect a patient’s ability to breathe, eat, and communicate – making it difficult to perform everyday activities.

Reconstructive surgery is a viable solution for patients who have lost their facial features due to black fungus disease. These procedures involve the reconstruction of the nose, eyes, and other facial structures using various techniques such as skin grafts, tissue expansion, and microvascular surgery. These procedures can help restore the patient’s appearance and function – allowing them to lead a more normal life. However, patient-specific implants and procedures are expensive – rendering them inaccessible for people from weaker economic backgrounds.

“Additive manufacturing (3D printing) has already emerged as a viable and cost-effective, net shape manufacturing process for low volume production of complex body implants with specific custom-made designs. Extensive research activities are already being carried out in IIT Madras to commercialize this technology for printing patient-specific implants in stainless steel, Ti-6Al-4V, and Co-Cr-Mo alloys,” Dr. Murugaiyan Amirthalingam, Associate Professor from the Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering at IIT Madras. “Using unique in-house algorithms, a patient’s MRI/CT data is converted to printable CAD format, and custom implants are printed from medical-grade titanium using an indigenously-built laser powder bed facility in IIT Madras. This #Right2Face initiative aims to help poor and needy patients with patient-specific custom maxillofacial implants to treat black fungus patients.”

“Post-Covid, there has been an increase in number of black fungus cases. To save the lives of the patient, a lot of facial bones had to be removed. These patients are mostly breadwinners of the family and are now confined within four walls because of their facial deformity. #Right2face movement is aimed to help these needy patients in association with the oral and maxillofacial surgeons to restore the faces and give them back their smile,” said Dr. Karthik Balaji, CEO of ZorioX Innovation labs.

Using patients’ CT Data, the IIT Madras team can 3D print the implant exactly matching the patients’ face. IIT Madras is among the first to 3D print such implants for black fungus patients specifically, and the researchers are also identifying patients who cannot afford costly imported implants and giving these implants free of cost under the #Right2Face campaign.

Zoriox Innovations Labs handles part of the surgical procedures while IIT Madras handles the design and 3D printing. The implants are made of medical-grade titanium – commonly used for reconstructive procedures.

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Edward Wakefield

Edward is a freelance writer and additive manufacturing enthusiast looking to make AM more accessible and understandable.

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