Researchers at Cedars-Sinai have started using 3D printers to treat heel deformities. The first use of this new methodology was conducted on a patient affected by Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT), a genetic neuromuscular disease that affects one person in every 2,500.

The initial results seem shocking.

The researchers built over 18 identical 3D prints of the patient’s heel to test the most used techniques for treating CMT and discovered that none of them adequately correct the debilitating problem.

The tests were exclusively conducted on heel bones, which tend to be twisted inward in patients with Charcot-Marie-Tooth, making walking difficult without assistance. Friends of CMT patients often say that their walks look “funny”. Unfortunately, the funny look masks a lack of balance and often constant pain.

The lead author of the study is Glenn B. Pfeffer, MD, director of the Foot and Ankle Surgery Program at Cedars-Sinai. The team used a CAT scan of the patient’s heel to print the 3D models. These prints were then used to test correction methods from different operations.

The research was funded by CMTA, the USA Charcot Marie Association. With a proud motto “Fighting to end CMT”, the association promotes knowledge and helps with finding treatment for CMT.

The study was selected as a “Game Changer” from more than 900 studies at this year’s American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons annual meeting. CMT is finally getting some spotlight, after so many years of being considered simply as a rare disease.

Thanks to associations like CMTA and the internet, more patients are finding out that they have CMT, and more doctors are becoming aware of its existence. A cure is still far away (yet), but it’s a start. Today was a good day!

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Cedars-Sinai Medical Center is based in Los Angeles. You can contact them at http://www.cedars-sinai.edu/

CMTA is the USA Charcot Marie Association. You can find them at https://www.cmtausa.org/

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