3D-Printed Face Implants by IIT Madras Combat Black Fungus

Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras) researchers have developed 3D-printed face implants for patients suffering from Black Fungus, which has been reported in COVID-19 patients as well as those with uncontrolled diabetes, HIV/AIDS and other medical conditions. The implants are made of medical-grade titanium and are designed to match the patient’s face using CT data. The initiative, called #Right2Face, aims to provide free implants to economically-weaker patients.

What is Black Fungus?

Black Fungus, also known as Mucormycosis, is a rare but serious fungal infection that affects the sinuses, lungs, skin, and brain. It is caused by a group of molds called mucormycetes, which are found in soil, plants, manure, and decaying organic matter. The fungus can enter the body through inhalation, ingestion, or skin contact, especially in people with weakened immune systems or underlying health conditions.

How does Black Fungus affect the face?

One of the most devastating effects of Black Fungus is the loss of facial features, which can have a profound impact on the patient’s mental and emotional well-being. The fungus can invade the tissues of the face, causing necrosis and disfigurement. In severe cases, patients may lose their nose, eyes, or even their entire face. Furthermore, the loss of vital organs can affect a patient’s ability to breathe, eat, and communicate, making it difficult to perform everyday activities.

How can 3D-printed face implants help?

Reconstructive surgery is a viable solution for patients who have lost their facial features due to Black Fungus disease. These procedures involve the reconstruction of the nose, eyes, and other facial structures using a variety of techniques, such as skin grafts, tissue expansion, and microvascular surgery. These procedures can help restore the patient’s appearance and function, allowing them to lead a more normal life.

However, patient-specific implants and procedures are expensive, rendering them inaccessible for people from weaker sections. This is where 3D-printed face implants come in. These implants are based on metal 3D Printing or additive manufacturing, which is a process that creates solid objects from digital models by depositing layers of material on top of each other.

Using unique in-house algorithms, a patient’s MRI/CT data is converted to printable CAD format and custom implants are printed from medical-grade titanium using an indigenously-built laser powder bed facility in IIT Madras. The implants are then surgically implanted into the patient’s face using screws and plates. The implants are designed to match the patient’s facial contours and anatomy, ensuring a natural and aesthetic outcome.

What is the #Right2Face initiative?

The #Right2Face initiative is a social impact project that aims to provide free 3D-printed face implants to poor and needy patients with Black Fungus disease. The initiative is led by IIT Madras researchers in collaboration with ZorioX Innovation labs, a start-up founded by Dental Surgeons in Chennai. The initiative has already helped around 50 patients from economically-weaker sections to regain their facial features and confidence.

The initiative also seeks to raise awareness about Black Fungus disease and its prevention and treatment. It also hopes to inspire more research and innovation in the field of metal 3D Printing for biomedical applications.

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