Brain Tumor: 3D Printed Brain to Better Understand Cancer

The right hemisphere of the brain printed in 3D by Bio3DModel to better understand how to intervene on brain tumors. From biomedical engineering to the operating room, here’s how these areas integrate in medicine.

A 3D printed reproduction of the right hemisphere of the brain of a patient affected by a tumor to allow for a better understanding of brain structures, even in the presence of a disease. This is what the engineers and technicians of Bio3DModel, a medical business unit of SolidWorld Group, have achieved with their reproduction. The model of the organ has a soft but not too soft consistency, to remain transparent and allow for an understanding that, normally, would not be possible even with the most sophisticated scans.

From human tissue to photopolymer resins

The reproduction was made possible thanks to the Stratasys 3D printer model J850 DAP in the Bio3DModel laboratories, located at the headquarters in Barberino Tavarnelle (FI).

We started from the diagnostic investigations – say the experts – on the patient and from the report of the radiodiagnostic specialist, and we obtained the final result thanks to photopolymer resins. Our main objective was to achieve the right transparency of the organ, so that – thanks to two other colors – the crucial anatomical elements could be highlighted: in magenta red the tumor or, better, the solid neoformation located in the right fronto-parietal area of the brain; in blue the subcortical edema. These are the details that provide support especially to young doctors in the preparation phase of the surgery.”

This type of copy, in fact, even if it reproduces only the diseased half, allows for a better understanding of the clinical picture in the operating room. And therefore more precision and less time for the operation.

How the 3D model can help medicine

With the reading of the magnetic resonance and the doctor’s report, the skills of the biomedical engineers of Bio3DModel come into play: “We performed the Segmentation in Mimics Medical 25.0 of the brain and trunk. In practice, we created the three-dimensional geometry starting from the MRI images. In other cases, segmentation can also start from a CT scan.”

From segmentation, the process moves on to the preparation of the stl file for PolyJet multi-color multi-material printing, thanks to an open-source software, and the assignment of materials carried out by GrabCAD Print.

As mentioned, – continue the experts – we paid close attention to obtaining the right combination of photopolymer resins suitable for processing with the Stratasys 3D printer. In particular, the TissueMatrix resin, specifically made for Digital Anatomy machines, allowed us to obtain the best possible consistency, considering the transparency we needed.”

From 3D printing to the operating room

When the model is ready, it is delivered to the medical staff, who proceed with preoperative planning and, finally, with the intervention on the patient. In this case, the surgical team was able to anticipate a more in-depth knowledge of the interior of the cranial box, thus operating on the patient with greater precision and in less time. This also means less stress for the body, less sedation, faster overall recovery, and at least partially reduced costs.

The models have so far been developed at the Bio3DModel headquarters, but medical institutions that wish to have a printer at their location can enter into an agreement with SOLIDWORLD Group and rely on assistance and support during use. An investment with still valuable returns: on one hand, more prepared doctors in the operating room; on the other hand, more aware patients and family members, because thanks to what they see, the path to be taken and the consent required are clearer.