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LSU Student 3D Prints World’s First Phantom – Marie, for Radiation Therapy Research

3D printed phantom

Existing phantoms cost around $40,000 and have no limbs and don’t represent every body type, the 3D printed human body Marie costs only $500.

3D printed phantom
Above: LSU student Megan Moore with Marie, the life-size phantom used for radiation therapy research/Image Credit: Louisiana State University (LSU)

A Louisiana State University (LSU) student, Megan Moore, 3D printed the world’s first phantom ‘a full body human’ for radiation therapy research. This Phantom project also called as Marie will help in the testing of radiation exposure on a real-size human to understand the best angle for dose distribution.

Megan has been working on creating the life-size model since the last one year and finally, she was able to develop a lifelike female phantom made of bioplastic. This phantom can be filled with water to establish varying density similar to a patient. While existing phantoms cost around $40,000 and have no limbs and don’t represent every body type, the 3D printed human body Marie costs only $500. Megan used 3D scans of five real women that were procured from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Baton Rouge, LA.

Megan Moore said, “Phantoms have been used in medical and health physics for decades as surrogates for human tissue. The issue is that most dosimetric models are currently made from a standard when people of all body types get cancer. No personalized full-body phantoms currently exist.”

She continued, “I specifically wanted to work with a woman because, in science, women typically aren’t studied because they’re considered complex due to a variety of reasons. I want a person with the most complex geometry.”

Creating Marie, the 3D Printed Phantom

3D printed phantom
Above: LSU student Megan Moore checking the life-size phantom, named Marie/Image Credit: Louisiana State University (LSU)

Marie, the lifelike phantom is named after Marie Curie (radiation researcher), Marie Antoinette (detachable head), and Marie Laveau (purple symbolism).

“The initial idea for the whole project wasn’t completely my idea,” Moore said. “Dr. Becky Carmichael [LSU Communication Across the Curriculum science coordinator and TEDxLSU speaker coach] told Dr. Newhauser that he should talk to me. I met him at his TED Talk, where he did a presentation on 3D printing and how it’s interfacing with science. Since I had just started doing 3D modelling of my own, I showed him my 3D prints. This project took off from his work with breast cancer and computational modelling.

Megan hopes personalized replicas of Marie will be created and used throughout the medical field to more precisely treat cancer patients.

Marie was 3D printed on BigRep printer in the LSU’s Atkinson Hall. It took nearly 136 hours to print it in four sections. The different sections were connected using a combination of soldering, friction stir welding, and sandblasting. The excess plastic was removed using chisels and hammers.

The main trouble was figuring out where to put the pipe for dose measurements. It ended up going down the midline from her head to her pelvic floor.

Once assembled, the phantom was water tested multiple times. Each test required 36 gallons of water poured into Marie to ascertain if she can hold that weight for around 4 ½ hours.

“This process always makes me nervous, but I know it won’t burst because it has roofing sealant covering it,” Megan said. “The way Marie is shaped also helps.”

What Next?

Marie will now be tested for fast neutron therapy at the UW Medical Cyclotron Facility in Seattle. This type of therapy – a specialized and powerful form of external beam radiation therapy – is often used to treat certain tumors that are radio-resistant, meaning they are extremely hard to kill using X-ray radiation therapy.

According to Megan, “UW and Oregon Health and Science University came onto the project very recently. I built a coffin for Marie to get shipped in. I gave workers and handlers a thorough write-up on how to take care of her.”

Speaking about the future of the project, Megan said, “What I’d like to see for this project is the research to be used as foundational work to personalize cancer treatments for people with more complex treatments. Children and breast cancer patients have really differing morphology that is usually very difficult to treat. I find that the more we learn about any human body, the more complex it’s going to be. We’re still getting medicine wrong on a lot of levels. We have a lot to learn.”


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