Can We Replace Our Skulls?

Cases for mobile phones are one of the most common purchases made when getting a new phone.  This makes perfect sense because it is very important to protect the phone.  After all, it holds a lot of important information and allows the user to do a myriad of things at a moment's notice.  Well, similarly our brain is very important and nature's well designed case for it, the skull, plays a very important protective role.  The only thing that's unlike the mobile phone case, your brain can't be replaced...or can it?

 

The human skull is one of the most important parts of the body.  Throughout history the skull has represented religious symbols, served as central figures to cultural celebrations, and in general arrrrghhh used a lot for just about anything related to pirates.  Clearly a very iconic and important part of the human experience.  

 

On average the skull clocks in at about 2 lbs and is the natural housing and helmet for the organ that makes us who we are, the brain.  Protecting one's head is important for nearly any activity because it's the central command office for everything we do.  Any damage to the skull could yield huge problems that could impact the rest of your life.  

 

Well, recently, scientists in the Netherlands have accomplished something that is, for the lack of a better term, mind blowing.  A 22 year old woman suffering from a rare condition in which her skull's growth was causing vision problems, weakened motor-control skills and other cerebral issues needed help.  A remarkable solution was proposed, to make a scan of her head and use a 3-d printed artificial skull to replace her existing one.  This is a very dangerous procedure to say the least, a small mistake here could lead to some terrible outcomes with potentially permanent repercussions. 

 

 

After an amazing 23 hours in the operating room, they were able to successfully replace the diseased brain with this remarkable brand new 3-d printed plastic skull.  Three months have now passed and the medical facility is excited to announce that this woman has re-gained her vision, has no noticeable side effects, is back to work, and the healing went so well that it's nearly impossible to see that she had surgery in the first place. 

 

This is a ground breaking news release, as this could be a game changer for individuals dealing with severe medical conditions involving diseases and also for victims of accidents involving a damaged skull.  This specialized plastic seems to be working well with her body though doctors are not sure if it will need to be replaced. They'll be keeping track of her as she continues to go on with her life.

 

One astounding thought here is that we are currently living in a time period where this practice is possible.  Technology and a steadfast drive for new medical discoveries are responsible for a lot of human body parts that can be repaired or replaced.  Consider this - we can replace hips, knees, entire legs and arms, we can regenerate skin, create neurons, print bladders, we've made artificial hearts, teeth are replaced daily all over the world, and so on.  In addition to this 3-D printing is making big advances as well. It's pretty amazing to think about all the things that we can do, yet there is still one thing that we have no idea how to even begin to replicate, the very organ that's housed in that artificial skull.