IIT Madras Innovates: 3D-Printed Face Implants for Patients Battling Black Fungus

Researchers from Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-M) have developed 3D-printed face implants for patients suffering from black fungus, also known as mucormycosis, which has been reported in Covid-19 patients as well as those with uncontrolled diabetes, HIV/AIDS and other medical conditions . The implants are based on metal 3D printing or additive manufacturing and are specifically designed to match the patient’s face .

What is black fungus and how does it affect the face?

Black fungus is a rare but serious fungal infection that invades the face tissues causing necrosis and disfigurement . It can affect the nose, eyes, sinuses, jaw and even the brain . One of the effects of this disease is the loss of facial features, which can have a profound impact on a patient’s mental and emotional well-being . In severe cases, patients may lose their nose, eyes, or even their entire face . In such cases, reconstruction is needed.

How are the 3D-printed face implants made and used?

Using unique in-house algorithms, a patient’s MRI/CT data is converted to a printable CAD format and custom implants are printed from medical-grade titanium using an indigenously built laser powder bed facility inside IIT-M . The implants are made of titanium alloy, which is commonly used for reconstructive procedures . The researchers then identify patients who cannot afford costly imported implants and give them the new 3D-printed ones free of cost under the initiative named #Right2Face . ZorioX Innovation Labs, a startup founded by dental surgeons in Chennai, partners with IIT-M to implement this initiative and takes part in the surgical procedures .

Why is this innovation important and beneficial?

The 3D-printed face implants are a revolutionary technology that aims to offer tailored solutions, customizing implants for individual patients . The implants are able to restore the facial features and functions of the patients, giving them back their smiles and confidence . The initiative also helps the patients from economically weaker sections who otherwise would not be able to access such advanced treatments . The researchers said that around 50 implants have already been done on patients so far . The institute said it is among the first to print such implants for black fungus patients specifically .

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