LSU student 3D prints first full 'human' for radiation therapy research

Meagan Moore
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Meagan Moore, a Biological and Agricultural Engineering student from Louisiana State University (LSU) has 3D printed a full-size "human body" for radiation therapy research.

The Phantom Project, also known as Marie, is made of bioplastic that can be filled with water to establish varying density similar to a patient. It could help test radiation exposure on a real-size human to figure out the best angle for dose distribution.

"Phantoms have been used in medical and health physics for decades as surrogates for human tissue," Moore said. "The issue is that most dosimetric models are currently made from a standard when people of all body types get cancer. No personalized full-body phantoms currently exist."

While current phantoms cost $40,000, have no limbs, and don't represent every body type, Moore’s female phantom Marie has a full-body with limbs and only costs $500 to create.

Marie was modeled using 3D scans of five real women. It took 136 hours to 3D print Marie in four sections on a BigRep 3D printer. To connect the sections, Moore used a combination of sautering, welding, and sandblasting. Marie is 5 feet 1 inch tall and weighs 15 pounds. She can hold 36 gallons of water for up to 4 1/2 hours.

"I specifically wanted to work with a woman because, in science, women typically aren't studied because they're considered complex due to a variety of reasons," Moore said. "I want a person with the most complex geometry."

This past October, Marie was brought to the University of Washington Medical Cyclotron Facility in Seattle, where researchers were interested in testing fast neutron therapy on her. This type of therapy—a specialized and powerful form of external beam radiation therapy—is often used to treat certain tumors that are radio-resistant, meaning they are extremely hard to kill using X-ray radiation therapy.

Marie's trip was supported by LSU Medical Physics Program Director and Professor Wayne Newhauser, who served as Moore's mentor on the Phantom Project.

"The initial idea for the whole project wasn't completely my idea," Moore said. "Dr. Becky Carmichael [LSU Communication Across the Curriculum science coordinator and TEDxLSU speaker coach] told Dr. Newhauser that he should talk to me. I met him at his TED Talk, where he did a presentation on 3D printing and how it's interfacing with science. Since I had just started doing 3D modeling of my own, I showed him my 3D prints. This project took off from his work with breast cancer and computational modeling."

Moore hopes personalized replicas of Marie will be created and used in the medical field to more precisely treat cancer patients.

LSU student 3D prints first full 'human' for radiation therapy research