The loggerhead turtle, which is classified as an endangered species, was hit by a boat propeller whilst swimming in its natural habitat in Turkey. As a result of its injuries, the turtle — named AKUT3 by the team at Pamukkale University’s Sea Turtle Research, Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre — was unable to eat on its own, leaving its chances of returning back to the wild looking very slim.
However, a collaboration with BTech Innovation, a Turkish biotechnology company specialising in 3D medical prosthetics, devised an innovative solution to save the turtle from a lifetime in captivity: a 3D titanium jaw.
After two months of research and development, the company used CT scans and computer software to create a 3D model of the turtle’s beak. This enabled them to design a prosthetic replacement, which was then 3D-printed in medical-grade titanium.
The surgery, said to be the first of its kind ever performed, took two and a half hours to carry out by surgeons and veterinarians. Although the turtle is still recovering, initial signs look promising. Dr Anas M. Anderson, who helped to carry out the operation, commented that the creature’s body showed no signs of rejecting the implant, following a post-op examination.
Once the bionic turtle has made a full recovery, the team plans to release it back into the ocean to live happily once again. It’s hoped that this pioneering surgery will be able to help more injured sea turtles in the future and improve their chances of survival.