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New 3D Printed Shield Protects Body GI Tract from Radiotherapy

CT scans allow the devices to be custom tailored to each patient’s unique anatomy.

We’ve all had our dentist lay a weighted apron over our bodies before taking x-rays of our teeth. The idea is to protect our organs from the harmful rays emitted by the x-ray machine. According to a recent Medgadget article, researchers have developed a similar method of protection that can be customized to fit each patient. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and MIT have created 3D printed shields to protect patients’ gastrointestinal tracts from radiotherapy.

Radiotherapy is intended to target and shrink tumors, but it can also cause collateral damage to healthy tissue surrounding the target. This is most problematic in sensitive tissue like the mouth and gastrointestinal tract, so the team set out to find a solution. They tested a wide range of materials that could be 3D printed and also contain high atomic number materials that can block gamma and x-rays. The researchers estimate the devices will reduce radiation exposure in the mouth of head and neck cancer patients by up to 30%, and up to 15% in the gastrointestinal tract of prostate cancer patients.

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