Three babies are alive and happy, thanks to doctors who literally printed out the framework for new windpipes. All three were born with the same rare, life-threatening disease and none were expected to live very long. But three years after the first implant was tried, the first patient, Kaiba Gionfriddo, is now a curious, active 3-year-old who runs and plays with his family. He even got to meet his favorite cartoon character, Mickey Mouse, at Disney World recently, thanks to the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

The other two children are showing the same kinds of improvements as Kaiba, leading the doctors behind the breakthrough treatment to say it worked “better than we could have ever imagined.”

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All three babies were born with a disease called tracheobronchomalacia, which causes the windpipe to collapse and makes normal breathing impossible. In the video above, doctors explain how they created and implanted implanted 3D printed splints around the babies’ airways, creating a framework to hold the windpipe open and allow it to grow normally.

3D Printing medical device Kaiba Gionfriddo Photo Credit University of MichiganThree years after the first device was implanted in Kaiba, pictured here, the splint is dissolving just as it’s supposed to and doctors expect the child’s trachea will eventually show no signs of the disease that nearly killed him as a newborn.

“It’s wonderful and beyond anything I could have hoped for,” Dr. Glenn Green, one of the two doctors behind the procedure said in the University of Michigan video. “It’s so exciting to see.”

Green and Dr. Scott Hollister carried out the procedure at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan, have published an article about 3D printed implants in the journal Science Translational Medicine. Following up on the three children over three years, they determined the devices saved all three lives and hold great promise for other children born with the disease.

(READ more from the University of Michigan Health System)

Photo Credit: University of Michigan Health System / Story Tip: Bereji

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