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3D Printing to help with Surgical Mask Shortage

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Healthcare facilities are experiencing a shortage of medical supplies with the growing effects of COVID-19. The first line of defense of the infectious disease are the medical professionals evaluating and assessing patients. Especially patients that require hospitalization due to the severity of their symptoms. Each day the number of cases increases while healthcare providers are working diligently to protect the well-being of patients in hopes of making a full recovery. The virus is causing medical professionals to consistently use surgical masks, which results in a low supply of vital medical equipment.

Surgical masks are needed to protect healthcare providers and infected individuals to prevent transmission of the disease. There have been reports of others helping to supply essential equipment to ensure the safety of medical staff and patients. Owners of 3D printers are stepping in to help healthcare professionals with the growing shortage of medical tools.

In Montana, healthcare professionals at Billings Clinic are utilizing 3D printers to produce reusable plastic face masks. After printing, the masks are then fitted with pieces of surgical masks that can be changed as needed. The plastic mask requires a small square of a surgical mask filter, and then the surgical masks are cut into smaller pieces that are clipped to the plastic mask to be used as a filter. 

The mask filter can be used for a day and changed out the next day, and can be washed with soap and water. Other disinfecting products and bleach can be used to properly clean the mask to ensure proper sanitation. One mask has the capacity to be used up to 6 to 10 times from a single surgical mask. 

Billings Clinic has also uploaded files and instructions so anyone can print masks on their own 3D printer. Libraries in Montana will begin to print masks including Montana State University Billings and Rocky Mountain College. 

In Liverpool, New York a couple that develops 3D printers has stopped production on all orders to focus on creating face masks for medical responders and healthcare workers. Stephanie Keef and Isaac Budmen are owners of Budmen Industries and have created a visor they could print on 16 printers that are operating at full capacity in their New York residence.

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The couple purchased elastic and clear plastic that created 400 completed face shields that they’ve delivered to the Emergency Management Department in Onondaga County

The couple also provided files accessible to other users and established a database that can connect to printers with hospitals in need of supplies. The video below shows how the masks are printed:

Sources:

  1. https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/23/us/nyc-coronavirus-hospitals/index.html
  2. https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/23/us/coronavirus-3d-printed-medical-supplies-trnd/index.html
  3. https://www.billingsclinic.com/foundation/
  4. https://budmen.com/

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Covid-19

NASA Engineers in Pasadena Build Advanced Ventilator for COVID-19 Patients

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To assist in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena have created a high-pressure ventilator prototype. This machine is specifically designed to provide help to COVID-19 patients, as stated by the agency

The system is called Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally, or VITAL, the technology has just passed an important test at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. In the days ahead, NASA is hoping for a fast-track approval of the ventilator so it can be used to help critical coronavirus patients. 

The prototype operates like traditional ventilators, where sedated patients depend on an oxygen tube to help them breathe. The prototype is built to last three to four months, contrary to ventilators in hospitals that were designed to last for years to provide aid for patients with other medical conditions. Engineers of the prototype hope that traditional ventilators can be reserved for patients with severe symptoms from the coronavirus if VITAL is put into place. 

The advanced ventilator was also built to provide more oxygen at higher pressures than other models. According to Dr. Levin, who stated some of his patients needed that specific capability from the devices.

The agency stated engineers at JPL designed the ventilator to be easily built using fewer parts, a majority of them available in current supply chains. The purpose of the ventilator is not meant to compete with other exiting supply chains for ventilators. The VITAL machine is also designed to be adaptable with easy maintenance. It can be used in other settings hosting field settings, such as hotels and convention centers.

In addition to building a ventilator to help COVID-19 patients, NASA is also trying to help provide medical equipment in local communities like Antelope Valley, California.  Another helpful device is the Aerospace Valley Positive Helmet, which can be used to help treat coronavirus patients experiencing minor symptoms instead of using a ventilator. The helmet functions more like a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, a machine more commonly used to treat sleep apnea, according to the agency. The device has already been tested successfully and submitted to the FDA for emergency use authorization, while 500 are currently in production. 

The unit is the product of a collaborative partnership between NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California and Antelope Valley Hospital, the city of Lancaster, Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company, Antelope Valley College, and personnel of the Antelope Valley Task Force

Previously the NASA Glenn Research Center in Ohio teamed up with Emergency Products and Research, based in Ohio, to develop small portable devices that could disinfect ambulances quickly and cost-effectively known as AMBUStat. Both companies are looking to apply to the same methods during this pandemic as well. 

From 3D printed masks to protect health care professionals to NASA developing ventilators for COVID-19 patients, companies across the nation are stepping up to provide assistance during the coronavirus pandemic.

Sources: 

  1. https://abc7.com/nasa-ventilator-jpl-jet-propulsion-laboratory-ventilators/6133594/
  2. https://wordofhealth.com/2020/03/27/3d-printing-to-help-with-surgical-mask-shortage/

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Covid-19

3D Printing for Organ Transplants?

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The use of 3D printers in the medical and dentistry field is vastly growing from dental implants to prosthetics, and models for surgeons to practice on before making cuts on a patient. Researchers have advanced past printing with plastics and metals to printing with cells that form into living human tissues. Although no one has printed fully functional transplantable human organs, scientists are making improvements. Researchers have been developing pieces of human tissue that can be used to test drugs and creating methods to succeed in the challenges of recreating the body’s complex biology. This article will explore some of the milestones achieved by research groups as well as some of the challenges they have faced on the journey to creating 3D printed organs. 

Cardiac Cells and Ear Transplants

Thus far, scientists have printed mini organoids and microfluidic models of tissues that are also known as organs on chips. The results from both microfluidics and organoids show encouraging insights into operating like the human body. Pharmaceutical companies created the models and are testing drugs before moving into animal studies, after which they will be moving to clinical trials. One group involved in the clinical trials printed cardiac cells on a chip and attached the cells to a bioreactor before testing the cardiac toxicity of a commonly known cancer drug, doxorubicin. The team revealed that the cells’ beating rate reduced significantly after exposure to the medication

Robby Bowles, a bioengineer at the University of Utah, stated that other companies had been involved with 3D printing. The companies studied printing 3D ears, transplanting the ears to children who had congenital disabilities such as underdevelopment of the ears. He acknowledged initial attempts of using 3D printing in the medical field. 

Organovo Studies 

Most recently, researchers have built patches of tissues that emulate fractions of particular organs but haven’t been able to replicate the complexity or cell density of a full organ. Some studies show that even a patch of human tissue could be useful for treatment in patients. However, Organovo, a company that announced its program to design 3D printed liver tissue for human transplants, revealed the results from a previous study. The company presented a successful live implant in a mouse model of genetic liver disease which raised multiple biomarkers that showed improvement in liver function

Researchers have also made progress with one of the biggest challenges in printing 3D organs by creating blood vessels or arranging of blood vessels in an organ, also known as vasculature. After patches were implanted into the mouse’s liver in the Organovo study, blood was supplied to it by the surrounding liver tissue. Still, an entire organ would need to be prepared for blood flow. 

Wyss Institute 

In 2018, Sébastian Uzel, Mark Skylar-Scott, and a team at the Wyss Institute were able to 3D print a tiny, beating heart ventricle complete with blood vessels. A few days later after printing the tissue, Uzel says he came into the lab and found a piece of tissue twitching, that was “very terrifying and exciting.”

The team used embedded printing rather than printing the veins in layers, a method in which instead of building from the bottom of a slide upwards, materials are released directly into a bath or matrix. This approach allows researchers to print “free form in 3D,” according to Skylar-Scott, instead of having to print a vascular tree. The matrix, in this case, was cellular material that made up the heart ventricle. This material, a gelatin-like ink, pushed these cells gently out of the way to create a network of channels. Once the printing was completed, the combination was then heated up. This heat caused the cellular matrix to solidify but caused the gelatin to liquify so it could then be washed out, leaving room for blood to flow through.  

Challenges

Though there are many advancements in 3D printing organs, scientists remain “a ways away” from printing more intricate tissues and organs that can be transplanted into living organisms, but this is the objective for many scientists to achieve soon according to Bowles. As reported by the United Network for Organ Sharing, there are over 112,000 people in the US waiting for an organ transplant, and 20 of those waiting die each day

For a long time, biological engineers have attempted to construct 3D structures that they could seed among stem cells that could later develop and form into organs. One reason this could be challenging according to Bowles “to a large extent don’t allow you to introduce the kind of the organization of gradients and the patterning that is in the tissue,”. Bowles also says “there is no control over where the cells go in that tissue.” In contrast to 3D printing which provides researchers with the ability to precisely direct the organization of the cells that could guide better control over organ development.

Another important aspect is that 3D printed organs would need to be created from cells that the patient’s immune system could identify as its own to prevent immune rejection and the need for patients to be prescribed immunosuppressive medication. 3D printed organs could be developed from patient-specific induced pluripotent stem cells. However, the difficult aspect is getting the cells to differentiate into the subtype of mature cells required to form a specific organ. Bowles believes that “the difficulty is kind of coming together and producing complex patternings of cells and biomaterials together to produce different functions of the different tissues and organs.”.

Potential Solutions Moving Forward

To accomplish the emulation of patterns shown in vivo, there are still other methods scientists would have to develop. Scientists can print cells into hydrogels or different environments along with molecular signals and gradients built to influence the cells into arranging themselves into lifelike organs. 3D printing can be used by scientists to create these hydrogels as well. 

In the meantime, 3D printing of tissues is helping to expedite basic and clinical research regarding the human body. Though challenges associated with 3D printing remain, it has great potential to create organs and provide lifesaving organ transplants to patients. The advancement of the 3D printing continues to show promising results that could one day be effective in treating patients with critical conditions.

Sources: 

  1. https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/on-the-road-to-3-d-printed-organs-67187?_ga=2.230604892.1926843048.1587572466-1658288134.1587572466
  2. https://organovo.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/ORG-AASLD2017-805_THX_VJ-FINAL.pdf
  3. https://unos.org/data/transplant-trends/
  4. https://www.bme.utah.edu/department-directory/#/filter-Faculty
  5. https://bioe.uic.edu/profiles/alsberg-eben/
  6. https://www.prellisbio.com/team
  7. https://lewisgroup.seas.harvard.edu/people/mark-skylar-scott
  8. https://lewisgroup.seas.harvard.edu/people/s%C3%A9bastien-g-m-uzel
  9. https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/5/9/eaaw2459

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Digital Health

5 Apps for Prescription Delivery

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The coronavirus pandemic is keeping people at home and weary of leaving the house. Many health care facilities have implemented new rules and procedures to keep patients safe either for appointments or picking up prescriptions. Instead of going to your local pharmacy to pick up your prescriptions, you can download one of these five apps for instant access to your medications.

PharmEasy

With PharmEasy you can purchase medicine online and have it delivered to your home in 24-48 hours in select cities. You can purchase healthcare products and medical equipment. The application also allows you to schedule diagnostics tests. 

ZipDrug

This app provides you with medicine delivery in an hour and accepts insurance plans for easier payment methods. This app brings your medication to you and is available for iOS and Android. 

CVS

Download the CVS app to stay on track with your prescriptions and fill your medications online. You can choose from in-store pickup or free delivery 1 to 2 day or same-day options with Shipt. The app also allows you to add any other items to your cart including allergy relief medicines and vitamins. 

Medly 

The Medly pharmacy delivery app allows for a faster and easier refill for your prescriptions. Just notify your doctors to send your prescriptions to Medly and the app will alert you when you have a new prescription ready for delivery.

Walgreens

Instead of making a trip to your local Walgreens this app provides you with Rx text alerts and select delivery when prescriptions are ready. The app also has different delivery options to choose from for customer’s convenience.

Sources: 

  1. https://apps.apple.com/us/app/pharmeasy-healthcare-app/id982432643
  2. https://www.zipdrug.com/
  3. https://www.cvs.com/content/delivery
  4. https://apps.apple.com/us/app/medly-pharmacy-delivery/id1101899905
  5. https://www.walgreens.com/topic/pharmacy/prescription-delivery.jsp

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