Bionic 3D-printed jaw gives sea turtle a new lease on life

Engineers have saved a loggerhead turtle, injured in a collision with a boat propeller, by replacing its jaw with a 3D-printed titanium prosthetic.

The animal was hit by a boat in Turkey, Wired reports, and injured so badly it could no longer eat.

It was taken in by Pamukkale University’s Sea Turtle Research, Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre where it was fed, but looked unlikely to ever return to sea.

But thanks to a collaboration with BTech Innovation, a Turkish biotechnology company specialising in 3D medical prosthetics, it looks set to return to the wild.

The company used CT scans and computer software to create a model of the turtle’s beak, which was 3D-printed in medical-grade titanium. It was attached during surgery that took more than two hours.

It’s not the first time 3D-printing has come to the rescue of a testudine – the order of reptiles that includes turtles, tortoises and terrapins. 

Earlier this year, a Colorado student saved the life of a tortoise by giving her a new 3D-printed shell after the original was damaged beyond repair by a bone disease.

Bill Condie

Bill Condie

Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.

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