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Real-Life Bionic Man Receives 3D-Printed Ribs and Sternum

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CSIRO

In a groundbreaking surgery, a 54-year-old Spanish cancer patient had his sternum and a portion of his ribcage replaced with a 3D-printed titanium implant.

The patient, whose name has not been released, suffered from a chest wall sarcoma, a type of tumor that adheres to the cage of bones and tissue protecting the heart and lungs. His surgeons, Salamanca University Hospital’s José Aranda, Marcelo Jimene, and Gonzalo Varela, knew that finding an artificial replacement for the affected bones would be complicated work, and enlisted Australian medical device company Anatomics to create the necessary implant.

“We thought, maybe we could create a new type of implant that we could fully customize to replicate the intricate structures of the sternum and ribs,” Dr. Aranda says in a press release issued by the office of the Australian Minister for Industry and Science.

Anatomics had the device manufactured in CSIRO’s (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, a federal government agency) 3D printing facility, Lab 22. As explained in the video below, 3D printing gave the designers more flexibility, allowing them to fully customize the implant to fit the patient, something that would have been very costly and difficult with traditional manufacturing techniques.

Alex Kingsbury, a member of CSIRO’s manufacturing team, adds, “As well as being customizable, [3D printing] also allows for rapid prototyping—which can make a big difference if a patient is waiting for surgery.”

To create the prosthetic, the Anatomics team first used a high resolution CT scan to make a 3D replica of the patient’s chest wall. From this, the team could glean the exact measurements and capabilities necessary for the device. CSIRO’s Arcam printer, which cost $1.3 million AUD, “works by directing an electron beam at a bed of titanium powder in order to melt it,” Kingsbury explains.

In his press release, Australian Minister for Industry and Science Ian Macfarlane commends everyone involved for this massive step forward in the field of prosthetics. “This breakthrough is an impressive example of what can be achieved when industry and science come together,” he says.

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Why You Should Think Twice About Drinking From Ceramics You Made by Hand
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Ceramic ware is much safer than it used to be (Fiesta ware hasn’t coated its plates in uranium since 1973), but according to NPR, not all new ceramics are free of dangerous chemicals. If you own a mug, bowl, plate, or other ceramic kitchen item that was glazed before entering the kiln, it may contain trace amounts of harmful lead.

Earthenware is often coated with a shiny, ceramic glaze. If the clay used to sculpt the vessel is nontoxic, that doesn’t necessarily mean the glaze is. Historically, the chemical has been used in glazes to give pottery a glossy finish and brighten colors like orange, yellow, and red.

Sometimes the amount of lead in a product is minuscule, but even trace amounts can contaminate whatever you're eating or drinking. Over time, exposure to lead in small doses can lead to heightened blood pressure, lowered kidney function, and reproductive issues. Lead can cause even more serious problems in kids, including slowed physical and mental development.

As the dangers of even small amounts of lead have become more widely known, the ceramics industry has gradually eliminated the additive from its products. Most of the big-name commercial ceramic brands, like Crock-Pot and Fiesta ware, have cut it out all together. But there are still some manufacturers, especially abroad, that still use it. Luckily, the FDA keeps a list of the ceramic ware it tests that has been shown to contain lead.

Beyond that list, there’s another group of products consumers should be wary of: kiln-baked dishware that you either bought from an independent artist or made yourself. The ceramic mug you crafted at your local pottery studio isn’t subject to FDA regulations, and therefore it may be better suited to looking pretty on your shelf than to holding beverages. This is especially true when consuming something acidic, like coffee, which can cause any lead hiding in the glaze to leach out.

If you’re not ready to retire your hand-crafted ceramic plates, the FDA offers one possible solution: Purchase a home lead testing kit and analyze the items yourself. If the tests come back negative, your homemade dishware can keep its spot on your dinner table.

[h/t NPR]

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Marathon Running Won't Undo Poor Lifestyle Choices, Study Suggests
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Even marathon participants can't outrun an unhealthy lifestyle, according to a new study highlighted by The New York Times.

For years, expert opinion has been mixed on whether long-distance running helps or hurts hearts. In the 1970s, research suggested that marathon running and a heart-healthy diet would completely prevent atherosclerosis (a buildup of harmful plaque in the arteries). But since high-profile runners have died of heart attacks, scientists in the 1980s began to worry that running might actually harm the vital organ. Compounding this fear in recent years were studies suggesting that male endurance athletes exhibited more signs of heart scarring or plaques than their less-active counterparts.

Experts don't have a verdict quite yet, but researchers from the University of Minnesota and Stanford and their colleagues have some good news—running doesn't seem to harm athletes' hearts, but it's also not a panacea for heart disease. They figured this out by asking 50 longtime marathon runners, all male, with an average age of 59, to fill out questionnaires about their training, health history, and habits, and then examining them for signs of atherosclerosis.

Only 16 of the runners ended up having no plaque in their arteries, and the rest exhibited slight, moderate, or worrisome amounts. The men who had unhealthy hearts also had a history of smoking and high cholesterol. A grueling training regime seemed to have no effect on these levels.

Bottom line? Marathon running won't hurt your heart, but it's not a magic bullet for poor lifestyle choices.

[h/t The New York Times]

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