NTT Research and Technical University of Munich Paper Proposes Design for 3D-Printable Structures for Biological Implants

Nanjing Tamasudare-Inspired Transformers Could Be Used as Implantable Devices

Sunnyvale, Calif. – November 15, 2021 – NTT Research, Inc., a division of NTT (TYO:9432), today announced that scientists affiliated with its Medical & Health Informatics (MEI) Lab and the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have written a paper on the design and capabilities of 3D-printable, transformable materials that inflict reduced damage on target tissue and exhibit enhanced functionality. Four of the eight co-authors are identified with both the MEI Lab and the Munich Institute for Biomedical Engineering (MIBE, formerly Munich School of BioEngineering) at TUM. The paper appears in the June 2021 issue of Advanced Materials Technologies.

The co-authors include Dr. Tetsuhiko Teshima, Research Scientist in the MEI Lab and Visiting Researcher in TUM’s Neuroelectronics Group, and Dr. Bernhard Wolfrum, Professor of Neuroelectronics at TUM in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the MIBE. The paper proposes a novel design of 3D-printable and highly deformable structures. (Deformability here refers to the ability to change shape under given levels of stress without rupturing.) The design is inspired by props used in Nanjing Tamasudare, a traditional Japanese street performance. The paper discusses the ability of these structures to morph from a narrow, condensed state to larger target shapes, such as stents or meshes.

“Congratulations to Professor Wolfrum and Dr. Teshima and the others who conducted this research,” said Joe Alexander, M.D., Ph.D., Distinguished Scientist and Director of the MEI Lab. “We are excited by the prospects of the creative use of material sciences both to solve basic problems, such as tissue damage from the insertion of medical devices, and to improve upon existing stents, meshes and electrodes through a stronger and more capable substrate.”

Combined with miniaturization, the use of soft and functional materials has enabled less damaging medical implants, but the need for a stronger substrate structure has persisted. This 3D printable design, which addresses that need, resembles the loosely woven bamboo sticks in Nanjing Tamasudare that can be twisted, folded, or extended and then brought back to their original shape. The Nanjing Tamasudare-inspired transformers (NTTr) discussed in this paper consist of a rectangular ring made of a pair of two rods 600 micrometers in diameter with two loops attached. Joined to other rings, NTTr can be altered through shifting, bending and inclination. The research team fabricated these structures through digital light processing (DLP) 3D-printing and used printed polyurethane vessel mock-ups to demonstrate how the structures could be inserted and then folded out within a cavity to form a stent-like structure. The authors also explain how additional functionality is gained by modifying the surface of the structures with conductive material, such as gold.

NTT Research entered a joint research agreement with TUM in November 2019 to work on three-dimensionally transformable and implantable electrodes. In August 2020, it opened a MEI Lab office in Munich. In addition to this research, the MEI Lab is also engaged in foundational work on the bio digital twin, beginning with the cardiovascular system, and remote sensing.

About NTT Research

NTT Research opened its offices in July 2019 as a new Silicon Valley startup to conduct basic research and advance technologies that promote positive change for humankind. Currently, three labs are housed at NTT Research facilities in Sunnyvale: the Physics and Informatics (PHI) Lab, the Cryptography and Information Security (CIS) Lab, and the Medical and Health Informatics (MEI) Lab. The organization aims to upgrade reality in three areas: 1) quantum information, neuroscience and photonics; 2) cryptographic and information security; and 3) medical and health informatics. NTT Research is part of NTT, a global technology and business solutions provider with an annual R&D budget of $3.6 billion.

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