Peeking at the algorithms which are informing patients and aiding surgeons
“The patient had been told that their knee looked like a smashed eggshell,” says Niall Haslam, EMBL alumnus and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at axial3D – a medical 3D printing company. “But they were still planning to ride a downhill mountain bike race the following month.” For both Haslam and the clinicians involved, it was clear that the patient hadn’t fully understood the surgical situation or its implications.
The hospital scans that they’d seen had provided detailed information about the bones inside his leg. But sometimes only a physical object can help someone understand the reality of a physical problem. “Only when they held the 3D printed shards did they grasp the enormity of the situation,” says Haslam.
Since the early 2010s, the business of 3D printing has grown rapidly. Its versatility means that anything from innovative lab tools to educational knick-knacks can be produced relatively quickly and cheaply. Medical 3D printing is also on the rise and, at axial3D, life-size anatomical models can be produced within 48 hours.
EMBL is Europe’s flagship laboratory for the life sciences. Established in 1974 as an intergovernmental organisation, EMBL is supported by over 20 member states. EMBL performs fundamental research in molecular biology, studying the story of life. The institute offers services to the scientific community; trains the next generation of scientists and strives to integrate the life sciences across Europe. EMBL is international, innovative and interdisciplinary. Its more than 1700 staff, from over 80 countries, operate across six sites in Barcelona (Spain), Grenoble (France), Hamburg (Germany), Heidelberg (Germany), Hinxton (UK) and Rome (Italy). EMBL scientists work in independent groups and conduct research and offer services in all areas of molecular biology. EMBL research drives the development of new technology and methods in the life sciences. The institute works to transfer this knowledge for the benefit of society.