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Scientists are 3D printing the human of the future

10 January 2017

Oxford University created 3D computer models of human joints to show common medical issues and depict how we will evolve in the future.

Interactive 3D models of human joints (Credit: Oxford University)

The 3D computer models have been compiled of 128 slice CT scans of bones from humans, early hominids, primates and dinosaurs. Scientists scanned a total of 224 bone specimens. 

This method has allowed the scientists to produce 3D ‘morphs’ to plot the changes in the shapes of species throughout human existence. This has provided a new insight into the morphological trends associated with common complaints such as knee pain, shoulder pain and orthopaedic complaints.

The trends allowed a 3D printed render of possible future skeletal shapes as humans evolve.

Dr Paul Monk, who led the research at the Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences, said: 'Throughout our lineage we have been adapting the shape of our joints, which leads to a range of new challenges for orthopaedic surgeons. Recently there has been an increase in common problems such as anterior knee pain, and shoulder pain when reaching overhead, which led us to look at how joints originally came to look and function the way they do.

'These models will enable us to identify the root causes of many modern joint conditions, as well as enabling us to anticipate future problems that are likely to begin to appear based on lifestyle and genetic changes.

'Current trends reveal that the modern shapes of joint replacements won’t work in the future, meaning that we will need to re-think our approach for many common surgeries.

'We also wanted to see what we’re all going to look like in the future, and to answer questions such as ‘are we evolving to be taller and faster or weaker’, and ‘might we be evolving to need hip replacements earlier in the future?’'

More information can be found at the University of Oxford website.

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