A 3-d printer, which is currently being used to make 3D models of people’s heads, is making scientists use a different way of looking at the human body, and one that could eventually be used to diagnose breast cancers.
The 3-dimensional printer uses laser-assisted design to print a 3,000-pixel mesh of human skin and muscle, then cuts that mesh into individual sections that are then connected together to create an intricate 3D structure, or virtual “head.”
Researchers at the University of Toronto in Canada created a 3d model of the human head using a 3.3-inch laser scanner and a 3G printer.
The model was created using software called a 3DOF 3D scanner that can make 3-point shapes that can be scanned with a laser.
The results are detailed in a study published online in Nature Materials on Thursday.
The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, a Canadian National Research Council program, and the Canadian Institute for Health Information.
“The ability to print 3D structures on a computer screen is one of the most exciting new tools that we’re trying to build, and we’re now beginning to get into the heart of what’s possible with it,” said lead researcher Daniel Dzakadze, an associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the university.
Dzakacz said the printer allows scientists to look at the structure of the brain and nervous system as they are being created.
“We can take a look at what’s going on in the brain as it’s being generated, and what we can see is that there are changes that occur during the course of a disease process,” he said.
“So when you see these changes in the structure and the function of the neurons, you can start to understand what the changes are that lead to these brain changes.”
A key question that scientists need to answer is why the brain changes, and how they relate to disease progression, Dzaksays.
“I think the answer to that is really that we need to understand how these brain cells are changing, and I think we have a very good understanding of how they’re changing,” he added.DZAKACZ is working with scientists from the University at Buffalo and the University Medical Center of Vienna, Austria, to develop new 3-gravitational technology that can create a 3 to 1 replica of the skull.
“They’ve done a really nice job with the scanner, but we are trying to create the model using the software to get a 3 dimensional view of the body, with the brain model,” he explained.
Dziakaczyk said 3-Gravitational laser technology is already being used in medical research and is becoming more popular with researchers and hospitals.
The technology has a long history of being used for scientific studies, he added, and is a technology that is often used for diagnostic tests, such as CT scans, which require high precision scans.
“What they’re doing with 3D scanners is the same thing they did for the scanning of the skin,” he continued.
“We’re going to be able to do that with the 3DOFs 3D printers.”