Will Australia change cranial reconstruction with new 3D printing technology?
As part of a new procedure using stem cells and advanced 3D printing technology, a team of Western Australian scientists are developing new ways for patients in need of cranial reconstruction to regrow parts of their skull.
With the help of a A$2 million grant from the Western Australia State Government, the 3D printed cell-based skull replacement at Royal Perth Hospital may increase the success rate of the procedure, and the quality of life for patients following the intense surgery.
RELATED TOPIC: 4WEB Medical brings 3D printing implants to Australia
It could potentially become a game-changer in cranial reconstruction.
“This project highlights some of the innovative and groundbreaking research that is under way in Western Australia’s public health system, and the commitment of the Government to supporting this crucial work,” said Australian Health Minister Kim Hames.
As studies on 3D printed stem cell cultures continue, the Royal Perth research team is focused on making strides toward improving the results of these cranial reconstructive operations, all while making it more time friendly and cost effective.
RELATED TOPIC: How 3D printing can impact the Australian real estate market
Most of these patients either had their skull badly damaged in a serious head injury or were born with a skull-related deficiency. As a result, this new procedure would have a piece of bone removed and later reimplanted.
Doctors in Australia are already using 3D printing to replace large parts of skull bone or repair skull fractures.
In NSW, neurosurgeon Marc Coughlan has repaired fractured skulls over the past couple of years with plastic implants made by a Melbourne company which used 3D printers to mould the implants to the exact contours of a patient’s skull.
However, titanium plates, plastics or ceramics used during these operations often degrade over time and can lead to infection.
Cranial reconstruction is often a difficult process, in particular for patients with severely-damaged skulls. In addition to the damage that has occurred, some have had pieces of skull removed for surgery or to relieve pressure on swollen brain tissue.
Ceramic had also been used to repair and reconstruct skulls with a lower complication rate, but without the addition of stem cells.
Beyond Limits: Cognitive AI in APAC
Courtesy of current estimates, it looks like Asia-Pacific AI will be worth US$136bn by 2025. Its governments and corporations invest more money than the rest of the world in AI tech, the data of its citizens is considered fair game, and its pilots are small-scale and, as a result, ruthlessly effective. This is why, according to Jeff Olson, Cognizant’s Associate Vice President for Projects, AI and Analytics, Digital Business and Technology, the APAC region ‘is right on the edge of an AI explosion’.
Now, startup Beyond Limits is pushing the boundaries of what AI can do, mirroring humans in its ability to find solutions with even limited information. As of this July, it’s partnered up with Mitsui, a global trading and investment company, to expand its impact in APAC.
How Does Beyond Limits Work?
Most AI companies claim that they can help businesses make better decisions. But many need astoundingly large stores of data to feed their information-hungry algorithms. Beyond Limits, in contrast, takes a different tack. Perfect data, after all, is largely a pipe dream kept alive by PhD students. In reality, systems must often make decisions from small, incomplete sets of intel.
But Beyond Limits’ AI is no black box. ‘When little to no data is available, Beyond Limits symbolic technologies rely on deductive, inductive, and abductive reasoning capabilities’, explained Clare Walker, Industry Analyst at Frost & Sullivan. While making these leaps in logic, however, the system also keeps track, ensuring that humans can review the AI’s ‘thought process’.
Why Partner With Mitsui?
Beyond Limits is built for specific applications such as energy, utilities, and healthcare—but lacks the extensive industry network of Mitsui. Partnering allows Beyond Limits to access a portfolio of firms specialising in minerals and metals, energy, infrastructure, and chemicals. ‘We’ve been working on this deal for several years’, said Mitsui’s Deputy General Manager Hiroki Tanabe. ‘Mitsui’s global portfolio and Beyond Limits’ AI technology will...deliver impact’.
In the first test of that dramatic statement, Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) will soon deploy Beyond Limits’ new system. If everything goes according to plan, LNG will optimise how it extracts and refines energy, making money for both itself and investors—including Mitsui. This, in fact, is Mitsui’s strategy: go digital and don’t look back.
Why Does This Matter?
Forty-five percent of Asia-Pacific companies surveyed in Cognizant’s thought leadership ebook consider themselves AI leaders. Positivity bias, that oh-so-common tendency of humans to position themselves as above average as compared to others, strikes again. (Most small companies fail to launch successful AI projects on their own.) And partly, this is because firms fail to integrate AI with industry expertise.
‘A large part of the focus on talent for AI today has been getting the people who are strong in mathematics, AI, and technologies’, said Olson. ‘But where you make your money out of AI projects is when you apply them to your business’. In short: APAC nations looking for ways to bridge the gap might follow Beyond Limits and Mitsui’s playbook—coupling startup AI with a corporate network.