3D-printed titanium jaw saves turtle's life

A sea turtle badly injured by a collision with a boat’s propeller has been nursed back to health after receiving a 3D-printed prosthetic jaw.

The jaw, devised by BTech Innovation and a Turkish biotechnology company specialising in 3D prosthetics, is made of medical-grade titanium and replaces the loggerhead turtle’s beak.

The turtle, named AKUT3, was swimming in its natural habitat in Turkey when half of its jaw was shredded off in the accident.

Detailed CT scans of the injured creature’s head were used to create a 3D model of the turtle’s beak with computer software.

BTech relied on finite element and movement analysis to ensure a proper design for the upper and lower jaws of the 45kg turtle in Materialise’s 3-matic software.

The surgery, believed to be the first of its kind ever performed, took two and a half hours to carry out by surgeons and veterinarians.

If the prosthetic is not rejected by AKUT3, the team plans to release it back in to the ocean. However, if complications appear it might hinder the turtle’s ability to eat again.

The animal was taken to the sea turtle Research, Rescue and Rehabilitation centre at Pamukkale University in Denizli soon after being injured and is currently convalescing to ensure that it has adapted to its metal jaw.

Another reptile, Cleopatra the tortoise, received a 3D-printed customised prosthetic plastic shell in March after her original one had deteriorated due to poor diet.

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