John Manwaring underwent surgery to replace half his jaw that was lost to cancer. (PR HANDOUT IMAGE PHOTO)

When John Manwaring lost half of his jaw to cancer, he started having trouble breathing, speaking and eating. The man of 58 had his jaw reconstructed using a part of a bone in his leg – the most commonly adopted method. But the bone disintegrated following further cancer treatment.

Many years ago, Australian surgeon Michael Wagels had come up with a solution to just this type of predicament: a special 3D implant is printed and a little shaving of the lining of the bone is wrapped around the implant. He decided to duplicate this procedure for Manwaring and it turned out to be a success.

Manwaring’s body will regenerate bone tissue inside the scaffolding of the implant, which – over the next two years – will slowly be absorbed into the body. The result is the perfect trifecta of 3D printing, accurate surgical technique and the human body’s incredible ability to regenerate.

We replace something that’s lost with something that is not permanent, it’s going to disappear, and it’s essentially going to turn into the patient’s own tissues, which is really exciting to me. Not having to perform a second surgery to harvest bone to be used as an implant reduces the overall risk to the patient. There’s a belief in surgery in general – but reconstructive surgery in particular – which is, all implants fail eventually. If the implant disappears, then we hope we can show that the risk profile is much more favourable,” Dr Wagels said.

Because of the way we 3D printed the implant, it has the propensity to enable tissue and vessels to grow into it, not just around it, but through the entire volume of the scaffold,” Osteopore’s Dr Jing Lim said. “That is really down to the porous structure that we incorporated during the printing process, and the understanding of what sorts of materials would be best suited to facilitate this regeneration. It will take about two years for the implant to harmlessly dissolve in the body”, he says.

Manwaring is proud to be part of this one of a kind surgery, which he hopes will make a difference for other people facing similar reconstructions.

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