3D printed nose grown on a cancer patient’s arm, grafted to her face

At number 7 on IE's 22 best innovations of 2022, we look at this new medical technology that may forever revolutionize reconstructive surgery.
Loukia Papadopoulos
A nose was 3D printed in France.
A nose was 3D printed in France.

Ibrahim Can/Interesting Engineering 

In November of 2022, surgeons at the Toulouse University Hospital and the Claudius Regaud Institute in France grafted a 3D-printed nose onto a patient that was grown onto her arm.

The amazing medical breakthrough was achieved through additive manufacturing, more commonly known as 3D printing, the same technology used for building houses and making firearms.

But the development required some pretty nifty chemistry. For a bone-building to take place in our bodies chemicals such as Hydroxyapatite (HAP) and Tri-Calcium Phosphate (TCP) must be produced by our bone cells and then shaped into their specific configurations.

This is number 7 in Interesting Engineering's series showcasing the best innovations of 2022. Check back to discover more about groundbreaking AI, unique solar panels, new 3D printing methods and much more.

The company behind the development

Cerhum, the company behind this latest development, has managed to replicate the production of these high-quality chemicals and even figured out a way to use them to 3D print bones.

The technology, which has been clinically tested, comes with many advantages such as faster healing times and better rehabilitation for the patients. 

In this specific case, the female patient had lost a large part of her nose as well as the anterior (frontal) region of her palate almost a decade ago after being diagnosed with nasal cavity cancer. It was the treatments of radiotherapy and chemotherapy that followed that resulted in the destruction of her nose.

The patient had survived for many years without a nose before deciding to undergo nasal construction using grafting skin flaps. This process however proved unsuccessful and the patient experienced further difficulties using a nasal prosthesis.

Most Popular

That's when researchers at Toulouse University Hospital teamed up with Cerhum to provide her with a viable nose through a highly customized nasal reconstruction surgery made possible by 3D printing. It marked the first time this process was ever undertaken.

Revolutionizing reconstructive surgery

The technology has the major benefit of being able to produce material as small as blood vessels. The hope is that one day it can be used to treat diseases of the heart and circulatory system. 

For now, Cerhum’s technology has been approved for use in patients in Europe and it could forever revolutionize the way medical professionals approach reconstructive surgery. It is particularly effective in cases where all other options have been exhausted.

This is number 7 in Interesting Engineering's series showcasing the best innovations of 2022. Check back to discover more about groundbreaking AI, unique solar panels, new 3D printing methods and much more.