An article co-authored by MEM’s Dr. Sorin Siegler was recently ranked in the top 10% of article downloads in the Journal of Orthopedic Research, the top journal in the orthopedics. The article, published during Dr. Siegler’s 2014 sabbatical at the Istituto Ortopedico Rizzoli in Bologna, Italy, describes an innovative new process for using additive 3d printing and advanced imaging techniques to develop custom ankle replacements designed to replicate the patient’s unique anatomy. We caught up with Dr. Siegler to learn more about his accomplishment:
Your article describes a new process you developed for performing ankle replacements. Could you describe how that process works?
The process starts with a Computer Tomography (CT) scan of the patient’s ankle. The images are processed to produce 3D computer renderings of the bones. Using an innovative, patented technique invented by us in 2013, 3D images of ankle replacement components are produced in the computer that fit optimally to the patient’s bones. These 3D images go into a metal 3D printing unit that uses laser melting technology to create the physical ankle replacement components.
It sounds like you do quite a lot of work on ankles. Why did you choose that area specifically? Was there something that drew you to it?
The ankle is a very complex anatomical structure and the understanding and quantification of its biomechanical properties are very challenging. Due to this complexity, its biomechanical properties were less investigated and less known than other joints in the human body. This challenge attracted me to explore the biomechanics of this part of the body which I have been doing now for more than 30 years.
What do you think led to the interest in your research?
Custom-made implants are part of personalized medicine, a concept that is becoming highly popular in medicine. Our research described in this article provides a roadmap of how such custom-made implants can be produced which I feel may be the reason for the attention it received.
Is there a plan to commercialize this process?
Yes. A start-up company, Kinos Medical, licensed the patented technology from Drexel University and is in the process of commercializing a Total Ankle Replacement (TAR) based on this technology. The company developed several prototypes, conducted extensive evaluation and submitted the product for FDA approval with expectation for approval in the next few months.
How much of an improvement will this technology represent over current technology?
The rate of failure of total ankle replacements is unacceptably high, particularly when compared to total knee or total hip replacements. I hope that the special features of our TAR compared to the existing commercial ones available today will significantly reduce the rate of failure and popularize this replacement as the treatment of choice for end-stage, severe osteoarthritis of the ankle.
Want to learn more? Click here to see Dr. Siegler’s article and here for more information for other developments in ankle care at Drexel MEM.