By Ian Bush

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Surgeons in Europe have successfully replaced a woman’s jaw. That’s nothing noteworthy — until you learn just how the implant was made.

Usually, the patient’s own body lends a hand (or a leg) in this kind of surgery.

“The lower leg has a bone not needed for standing, so we take that bone called the fibula and create a new jaw bone out of it,” says Dr. David Cognetti, co-director at the Jefferson Center for Head and Neck Surgery in Philadelphia. (He wasn’t involved in the procedure in Europe.)

Just like architects use specialized computer software to create 3-D models of their designs, doctors printed — from titanium, using a high-powered laser — a new lower mandible for the woman, who lost hers due to a severe infection.

“Hopefully, the future of medicine is that we’re able to bioengineer real bone from the patient somehow, then have the 3-D technology to help shape it or mold it to that specific patient.”

The 83-year-old who received the 3-D printed jaw could speak and swallow normally just a day after surgery.

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