A Turkish sea turtle gets a 3D printed titanium jaw implant after a propeller sheared off its jaws and beak. Amy Pollock reports.
Meet AKUT-3 - the 'terminator' turtle with a titanium jaw. The loggerhead turtle lost his original beak and jaw after colliding with a boat propeller. Now he sports a 3-D printed implant that may mean he can return to his Mediterranean waters - and feed himself once more. Btech Innovation is the company behind the new jaw. Kuntay Aktas leads research and development at the Turkish biotech firm. (SOUNDBITE) (English) RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR AT BTECH INNOVATION BY DESIGN, KUNTAY AKTAS, SAYING: "We designed a custom implant for its upper and lower jaw and that perfectly mimics its healthy jaws and we made the necessary analyses, like element analysis, motion analysis so forth and so on and at the later stage we manufactured by 3D printing from a medical grade titanium." AKUT-3's carers at Pamukkale University's Research, Rescue and Rehabilitation centre thought the turtle would have to remain in captivity and be fed by hand. But they sent scan images of the damaged jaw to Btech Innovation, which were used to create the implants, just as if the turtle was a human patient. (SOUNDBITE) (English) RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR AT BTECH INNOVATION BY DESIGN, KUNTAY AKTAS, SAYING: "We first see the CT and MRI of the patients and in this case it is a sea turtle, then we convert these to the images of 3D models that we can make engineering on. At the later stage we design a patient-specific implant that perfectly matches the patient's needs and the facts and it perfectly fits its anatomy and later on actually this is the best implant solution that patient can get because this is made case-by-case and specifically designed for that patient" Loggerheads are listed as an endangered species and the Mediterranean population often nests on Turkish beaches. AKUT-3's vets will be watching for signs that the turtle's body is rejecting his new-look jaw. And once he's learned how to crush his shellfish meals himself, they hope he'll be rejoining his friends in the wild.