It is incredible to think that as little as ten years ago, 3-D printing was a virtually unknown phenomenon. And yet here we are, in 2014, witnessing scientific miracles emerging in abundance thanks to groundbreaking advances in technology. One of the most exciting breakthroughs is the use of 3-D printed organs to help save babies’ lives.
Last year, doctors in Boston used 3-D printing technology to successfully create an exact replica of the brain of 5-month old Gabriel Mandeville. Baby Gabriel had begun having severe seizures, and doctors recommended a complicated brain surgery called a hemispherectomy, which disconnects the healthy side of the brain from the side of the brain experiencing the seizures. To prepare themselves for the surgery, doctors were able to practice an exact replica of his brain, printed in soft plastic of only 16 microns per layer. As a result, surgeons did not have to rely only on 2-D X-rays, scans and their intuition to perform this highly intricate and complex procedure, viewed as one of the most difficult pediatric epilepsy surgeries. This was the first time an infant’s brain has ever been replicated using this technology! Thanks in part to their abilities to practice on the exact replica of his brain, the surgery was a success and baby Gabriel is now 18 moths old, healthy and seizure free.
Then this July, surgeons at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital in Manhattan used 3-D printing technology to perfectly replicate the heart of a 2 week old baby who was suffering from congenital heart defects. (You can see the replica baby heart, pictured above). While the infant’s condition, which includes holes in the heart and unusually formed chambers, can be treated with surgery, doctors often do not know exactly what they will find or how to proceed until they cut the heart open. They sometimes have to stop the heart during these surgeries just to look around, because the organ can seem like an intricate maze. But now for the first time ever thanks to 3-D printing, surgeons were able to practice on an exact replica heart before the surgery, using it as a ‘road map‘ to guide them, according to lead cardiologist Dr. Emile Bach. By practicing on an exact rendition of the baby’s heart before surgery, they were able to successfully fix the problem in only one operation.
It is awe-inspiring to think that technology has advanced far enough to allow doctors to create exact replicas of some of the tiniest and most sensitive organs belonging to the human species, infant brains and hearts. Certainly this has profound implications for the way that surgeries are performed, and it is hoped that 3-D technology will facilitate safer and more accurate surgeries in the future. Imagine your peace of mind when before ever engaging in an operation, the surgeon can literally hold your organ in his or her hands, manipulate it, examine it, and look for potential issues or problems.
But will there ever be a time when we can regularly print bones, other body parts or even organs and insert them directly into the body? According to Dr. Peter Weinstock, director of the Simulator Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, “the technology is coming.” Soon, we might even see on-demand anatomy printing making its way to the emergency room for trauma cases.
I am grateful to live in a world where these things are possible, especially when they are being utilized to help saves the lives of children. Blessings and Love!
Photo Credit: The Independent UK
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Kelly Neff is a social psychologist, author and educator who has helped thousands of people learn about health, relationships, love and sexuality. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from Georgetown and M.A. and Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Claremont Graduate University. A professor of psychology since 2007, she has become an innovator in the field of online teaching with her book, Teaching Psychology Online. When she isn’t writing, teaching or doing healing work from her home in Boulder, CO, Dr. Neff travels the globe researching transformational festivals for her upcoming book for the Festival Research Project. She is currently a contributing author to The Mind Unleashed. You can find her daily doses of inspiration and positivity on Facebook and Twitter. Light and Love!
Biden to Ban Menthol Cigarettes, Citing Health Impact on Youth and Black People
The Biden administration is reportedly planning to propose an immediate ban on menthol cigarettes, a product that has long been targeted by anti-smoking advocates and critics who claim that the tobacco industry has aggressively marketed to Black people in the U.S.
On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that the administration could announce a ban on menthol and other flavored cigarettes as soon as this week.
Roughly 85 percent of Black smokers use such menthol brands as Newport and Kool, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Research has also found that menthol cigarettes are easier to become addicted to and harder to quit than unflavored tobacco products, along with other small cigars popular with young people and African Americans.
Civil rights advocates claim that the decision should be greeted by Black communities and people of color who have been marketed to by what they describe as the predatory tobacco industry.
Black smokers generally smoke far less than white smokers, but suffer a disproportionate amount of deaths due to tobacco-linked diseases like heart attack, stroke, and other causes.
Anti-smoking advocates like Matthew L. Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, also greeted the move to cut out products that appeal to children and young adults.
“Menthol cigarettes are the No. 1 cause of youth smoking in the United States,” he said. “Eliminating menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars used by so many kids will do more in the long run to reduce tobacco-related disease than any action the federal government has ever taken.”
However, groups including the American Civil Liberties Group (ACLU) has opposed the move, citing the likelihood that such an action could lead to criminal penalties arising from the enforcement of a ban hitting communities of color hardest.
In a letter to administration officials, the ACLU and other groups including the Drug Policy Alliance said that while the ban is “no doubt well-intentioned” it would also have “serious racial justice implications.”
“Such a ban will trigger criminal penalties, which will disproportionately impact people of color, as well as prioritize criminalization over public health and harm reduction,” the letter explained. “A ban will also lead to unconstitutional policing and other negative interactions with local law enforcement.”
Pollution Is Making Human Penises Shrink and Causing a Collapse of Fertility, Scientists Say
With many still scoffing at the idea of rampant pollution posing a threat to humanity, a new study could drastically change the conversation: the chemicals across our environment could be the cause of shrinking human penises.
According to a new book by Dr. Shanna H. Swan, conditions in the modern world are quickly altering the reproductive development of humans and posing a threat to our future as a species.
The argument is laid out in her new book Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race.
The book discusses how pollution is not only leading to skyrocketing erectile dysfunction rates and fertility decline, but also an expansion in the number of babies born with small penises.
While it may seem like good fodder for jokes, the research could portend a grim future for humanity’s ability to survive.
Swan co-authored a study in 2017 that found sperm counts had precipitously fallen in Western countries by 59 percent between 1973 and 2011. In her latest book, Swan blames chemicals for this crisis in the making.
“Chemicals in our environment and unhealthy lifestyle practices in our modern world are disrupting our hormonal balance, causing various degrees of reproductive havoc,” she wrote in the new book.
“In some parts of the world, the average twentysomething woman today is less fertile than her grandmother was at 35,” she also wrote, noting that men could have only half the sperm count of their grandfathers.
Swan blames the disruption on phthalates, the chemicals used in plastic manufacturing that also have an impact on how the crucial hormone endocrine is produced
However, experts note that the proper implementation of pollution reduction measures could help humanity prevent the collapse of human fertility.
Visualizing The World’s Deadliest Pandemics By Population Impact
Humanity has been battling against disease for centuries.
And while most contagious outbreaks have never reached full-blown pandemic status, Visual Capitalist’s Carmen Ang notes that there have been several times throughout history when a disease has caused mass devastation.
Here’s a look at the world’s deadliest pandemics to date, viewed from the lens of the impact they had on the global population at the time.
Editor’s note: The above graphic was created in response to a popular request from users after viewing our popular history of pandemics infographic initially released a year ago.
Death Toll, by Percent of Population
In the mid-1300s, a plague known as the Black Death claimed the lives of roughly 200 million people – more than 50% of the global population at that time.
Here’s how the death toll by population stacks up for other significant pandemics, including COVID-19 so far.
The specific cause of the Black Death is still up for debate. Many experts claim the 14th-century pandemic was caused by a bubonic plague, meaning there was no human-to-human transmission, while others argue it was possibly pneumonic.
Interestingly, the plague still exists today – however, it’s significantly less deadly, thanks to modern antibiotics.
History Repeats, But at Least We Keep Learning
While we clearly haven’t eradicated infection diseases from our lives entirely, we’ve at least come a long way in our understanding of what causes illness in the first place.
In ancient times, people believed gods and spirits caused diseases and widespread destruction. But by the 19th century, a scientist named Louis Pasteur (based on findings by Robert Koch) discovered germ theory – the idea that small organisms caused disease.
What will we discover next, and how will it impact our response to disease in the future?
Like this? Check out the full-length article The History of Pandemics
Republished from ZH with permission.