At just 1 year old, she is 5 feet 1 inch tall and weighs 15 pounds. She can hold 36 gallons of water for up to eight hours. She has a detachable head but remains faceless. Her name is Marie, and no, this is not her online profile.
For the past year, Louisiana State University Biological and Agricultural Engineering senior Meagan Moore of Baton Rouge has been working to 3D print the first actual-size "human body" for radiation therapy research. The Phantom Project, also known as Marie, will help test radiation exposure on a real-size human to figure out the best angle for dose distribution. For more information see the IDTechEx report on 3D Printing in the Medial and Dental Industry 2019-2029.
"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, Marie represents an entire human body that is more realistic and only costs $500 to create. Using 3D scans of five real women that were procured from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Moore developed a lifelike female phantom made of bioplastic that can be filled with water to establish varying density similar to a patient.
"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."
It took 136 hours to print Marie in four sections on the BigRep printer in LSU's Atkinson Hall. To connect the sections, Moore used a combination of soldering, friction stir welding, and sandblasting. She even used a hammer and chisel at times to take off chunks of plastic without damaging Marie. The main trouble was figuring out where to put the pipe for dose measurements. It ended up going down the midline from her head to her pelvic floor.
In order to test the phantom on multi-million-dollar equipment, multiple water tests first had to be conducted. During each test, 36 gallons of water were poured into Marie to see if she could hold that weight for 4 1/2 hours. Moore then improvised by using a PVC pipe to catch the "dribbles" that were coming out of some areas.
"This process always makes me nervous, but I know it won't burst because it has roofing sealant covering it," Moore said. "The way Marie is shaped also helps."
Prior to the water testing, Marie was coated with liquid latex and purple roofing sealant for protection. Why purple sealant?
"Purple was on sale," Moore said. "Turns out the color matches LSU and the University of Washington. She also wears her anti-skid LSU socks."
Source and top image: Louisiana State University