I managed to go 12 full years before breaking my first bone.
It happened during the fall of 1983 while playing football with some neighborhood kids. I took a nasty hit after Teddy Reznik barreled over me like a Soviet battle tank with turbochargers.
The 13-year-old Russian immigrant was an intimidating figure with a fiercely competitive streak. Yet he was also an extremely gentle and respectful individual who eventually became a Rabbi.
So it was no surprise when Teddy, immediately seeing the gruesome image of my mangled wrist, apologized profusely before running to get help…
The next morning, accompanied by yet another unnecessary apology, Teddy was the first to sign my cast. It was a massive white rock that weighed down my puny arm the first few days I had it on.
If you’ve ever worn a cast, you know how bad these things can smell and itch after a week or two (especially if you’re a rather pungent pre-teen boy). So I have to admit, I was thoroughly impressed last week when I came across the first 3D-printed brace that will ultimately make the conventional plaster cast a thing of the past.
As recently covered in Wired, the 3D-printed cast – called the Cortex Cast – is an injury-localized exoskeleton that’s lightweight, washable, ventilated, and even recyclable.
The Wired piece goes on to note:
The idea is that patients would have their fracture x-rayed and the injured limb 3D-scanned. A computer would then determine the optimal pattern and structure of the cast, with denser material focused on the fractured area of the bone to provide more support.
Although the 3D printing revolution is quickly spreading, I believe it’ll be in the defense and health care sectors where we see the most action for investors. And if you’re a regular reader of these pages, certainly you know we’ve chimed in on both of these opportunities in the past.
But since I’m growing frustrated and depressed over what seems to be a long line of never-ending wars, let’s focus today on health, not death.
So far, we’ve seen everything from bionic ears to skull implants to airway splints with the assistance of 3D printers. The airway splints, by the way, were truly inspiring.
It was only a few months ago that we saw the beautiful smile of Kaiba Gionfriddo, the young boy from Youngstown, Ohio, who is alive today thanks to a forward-thinking doctor and a 3D printer.
You see, Kaiba was diagnosed early with tracheobronchomalacia. This is a very rare respiratory condition that causes airways to collapse, thereby blocking the flow of air to the lungs. And in this young boy’s case, few doctors believed he would survive…
But survive he did.
Using a CT scan of Kaiba’s airways, a custom-fabricated airway splint was “printed” and sewn around his airway, which then allowed it to expand and aid in its natural growth pattern. As soon as the splint was inserted, Kaiba’s lungs began to work normally for the first time.
While this really is a wonderful story, the ability to “print” implants and casts is just the beginning of what will soon prove to be one of the greatest advancements in health care we’ll see in our lifetimes.
A Nobel Prize
The ability to “print” implants and casts is absolutely remarkable.
But what about “printing” human organs, like livers, kidneys, and even hearts? This isn’t science fiction, folks. This is real.
The early groundwork on this huge medical advancement is being laid right now, and the science behind this stuff will knock your socks off.
Think about this for a moment…
Think about the thousands of sick people sitting in hospital rooms waiting desperately for a transplant that may or may not come. Imagine the fear that must go through a person’s mind as he or she awakes each morning, hoping and praying that a new liver or new kidney is being rushed right over in a royal blue beverage cooler identified only by the words “Human Organ For Transplant.”
And imagine the guilt that comes along with knowing that one person likely had to die in order to save your life.
Just writing those words make me cringe.
So it’s no surprise that I’m very bullish on the potential of 3D-printed organs, both as a human being and as an investor. I have to admit, investing in a company that can single-handedly take much of the fear, guilt, and anxiety out of organ transplant procedures, while saving thousands of lives in the process, makes me feel incredibly good.
Of course, we’re still in the earliest stages of research here. But I fully believe the first company that can successfully pull off a 3D-printed organ for transplant will not only earn its head researcher a Nobel Prize, but will also be wildly profitable.
And that’s why I strongly recommend getting familiar with this technology and the companies behind it.