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3D Printing Gives a Turtle its Life Back with Titanium Jaw Implants

3D Printing Gives a Turtle its Life Back with Titanium Jaw Implants

We’ve given under-developed puppies new legs, injured bald eagles new beaks, and now, again thanks to 3D printing, we’ve given a sea turtle new titanium jaws.

Recently in Turkey, an almost lifeless Caretta caretta or loggerhead sea turtle — dubbed AKUT3 — was brought in to the Sea Turtle Research, Rescue and Rehabilitation Center at Pamukkale University (PAU) missing most of its lower jaw in what appeared to be a run-in with a boat propeller. The 45-kg sea turtle was eventually nursed back to health by the Center via force feeding, but the injuries to its jaws were bad enough to make reintroduction to the wild impossible.

TurtleJaw_1The loggerhead was in bad shape.

Turkish R&D corporation BTech Innovation, who specializes in 3D printing medical prostheses and implants, stepped in to help (for free). Working with veterinarians and surgeons, BTech first generated models of AKUT3’s skull with CT scans. Next, those models were used to 3D print the medical-grade titanium implants that would restore AKUT3’s ability to feed.

TurtleJaw_2The design of the jaws had a head start, as they were loosely based on human models, but the design process still took a full two months to complete.

An audience of surgeons and veterinarians watched the hours-long surgery that took place last April. Thankfully, AKUT3 — perhaps the first turtle to ever benefit from a 3D-printed prosthesis — pulled through and showed no signs of rejecting the implants over two weeks after the surgery.

TurtleJaw_3

TurtleJaw_5

Still recovering from the procedure but faring well, AKUT3 will hopefully be released back into the sea later this year.

TurtleJaw_4

To see AKUT3 after his operation, check out the Turkish news segment below:

IMAGES: BTech; Pamukkale University

HT: 3DPrint.com

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