3D-Printed Face Implants: IIT Madras develops 3D-printed face implants for patients suffering from Black Fungus

Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras) researchers have developed 3D-printed face implants for patients suffering from Black Fungus, which has been reported in COVID-19 patients as well as those with uncontrolled diabetes, HIV/AIDS and other medical conditions. Around 50 implants have already been done on patients from economically-weaker sections.
The Institute has partnered with ZorioX Innovation labs, a start-up founded by Dental Surgeons in Chennai, to implement this initiative, which is based on metal 3D Printing or additive manufacturing.
The outbreak of black fungus disease, also known as ‘Mucormycosis’, has been a cause of great concern in India. One of the most devastating effects of this disease is the loss of facial features, which can have a profound impact on the patient’s mental and emotional well-being.
Therefore, the reconstruction of faces lost due to black fungus is the need of the hour. Reports suggest that about 60,000 mucormycosis cases have been registered in India post-COVID.
The fungus responsible for mucormycosis can invade the tissues of the face, causing necrosis and disfigurement. In severe cases, patients may lose their nose, eyes, or even their entire face. Furthermore, the loss of vital organs can affect a patient’s ability to breathe, eat, and communicate, making it difficult to perform everyday activities.
Reconstructive surgery is a viable solution for patients who have lost their facial features due to black fungus disease. These procedures involve the reconstruction of the nose, eyes, and other facial structures using a variety of techniques, such as skin grafts, tissue expansion, and microvascular surgery. These procedures can help restore the patient’s appearance and function, allowing them to lead a more normal life.
However, patient-specific implants and procedures are expensive, rendering them inaccessible for people from weaker sections.
What makes the initiative unique
What makes this initiative unique is that IIT Madras team is able to print the implant exactly to match the patients’ face. The Researchers get the patients’ CT Data from which we design a specific implant that will suit the patient perfectly. IIT Madras is among the first to print such implants for black fungus patients specifically.
IIT Madras researchers are also identifying patients who cannot afford costly imported implants and giving these implants free of cost under the campaign called #Right2Face.
Zoriox Innovations Labs, with whom IIT Madras has a tie-up, takes part of the surgical procedures while IIT Madras handles the Design and 3D Printing. The implants are made of medical-grade titanium, which are commonly used for reconstructive procedures.
Elaborating on this technology developed by IIT Madras, Dr. Murugaiyan Amirthalingam, Associate Professor, Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, IIT Madras, said, “Additive manufacturing (3D printing) has already emerged as a viable and cost effective, net shape manufacturing process for low volume production of complex body implants with specific custom-made designs. Extensive research activities are already being carried out in IIT Madras to commercialise this technology for printing patient-specific implants in stainless steel, Ti-6Al-4V and Co-Cr-Mo alloys.”
Dr. Murugaiyan Amirthalingam added, “Using unique in-house algorithms, a patient’s MRI/CT data is converted to printable CAD format and custom implants are printed from medical-grade titanium using an indigenously-built laser powder bed facility in IIT Madras. This #Right2Face initiative aims to help poor and needy patients with patient-specific custom maxillofacial implants to treat black fungus patients.”
Speaking about this initiative, Dr. Karthik Balaji, CEO, ZorioX Innovation labs, said, “Post-Covid there has been an increase in number of black fungus cases. To save the lives of the patient, a lot of facial bones had to be removed. These patients are mostly breadwinners of the family and are now confined within four walls because of their facial deformity. #Right2face movement is aimed to help these needy patients in association with the oral and maxillofacial surgeons to restore the faces and give them back their smile.”