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U of T Researchers Are Changing the World With These 3-D Printed Limbs

Despite the pain and challenges that come with prosthetic limbs, new innovations are making living with them more tolerable.

One Canadian doctor, Matt Ratto, is a trailblazer in this field, specializing in creating 3-D printed limbs for people in developing countries.

In countries like Uganda, there is a serious need for artificial limbs due to the increase in accidents and landmines. There’s also a shortage of technicians who can properly make them, reports Metro News.

Ratto, a University of Toronto researcher, embarked on a life-changing journey in 2015 when he began a clinical trial in Uganda that has helped change the lives of many patients.

Today, Ratto’s 3-D printing is flourishing and he’s partnered up with a non-profit organization called Nia Technologies Inc. to introduce the relatively simple and inexpensive process of 3-D printing across the developing world.

According to the World Heath Organization, in many low-middle income countries roughly 5 to 15 per cent of people have access to assistive devices, which includes prosthetics, hearing aids, and wheelchairs. 

Ratto’s system is now making it that much easier for patients to gain access to the resources they need.

“Our solution is not, ‘put a 3D printer on your shoulder and fly off to Uganda’,” said Ratto. Adding that over time, the partnership wants to introduce the technology to hospitals where it can be used more consistently by skilled technicians from that specific area.

According to Metro News, Ratto’s system connects a relatively inexpensive 3D-printer to a laptop, and a skilled technician will scan the patient’s stump. A special software then analyzes the scan and a nylon socket is generated by the printer, which will then be attached to other parts needed for the full prosthetic purchased from the Red Cross.

It currently takes around a week to build a prosthetic limb in a developing country. With the help of Ratto’s system, the entire process can be completed in a day, which means that patients can spend less time in the hospital waiting to be fitted for their limbs.

Jerry Evans, the president and CEO of Nia, said the goal is to have the technology set up in 50 to 100 hospitals over five years. Evans also added that local prosthetic technicians would be in charge.

“We give them the tools, we don’t replace them,” he said.


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