Birch Aquarium: 3D printed shell brace helps injured sea turtle - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Birch Aquarium: 3D printed shell brace helps injured sea turtle

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LA JOLLA (NEWS 8) - The Birch Aquarium teamed up with the Digital Media Lab at UC San Diego to create what is believed to be the first 3D printed brace for a sea turtle shell - giving an endangered sea turtle a new lease on life.

Found floating in a New Jersey power plant four years ago, an injured yellow sea turtle is now on the mend at the Birch Aquarium.

The sea turtle, who does not have an official name, has a piece from her shell missing, and is paralyzed in her rear flippers. So, the scientists at the aquarium teamed up with UC San Diego's Digital Media Lab to print a 3D brace.

"We think this is the first time that we have ever heard of or seen 3D printing to help a sea turtle. If we did not fill in that gap, she would continue to get some curvature in her spine which would eventually have complications to her ural genital and gastrointestinal tracts," said Jenn Nero Moffatt, Birch Aquarium's senior director of animal care.

As the sea turtle grows, her prosthetic piece could pop-out and scientists would have to form a replacement.

"We are not reversing what she has, we are just preventing it from becoming worse," said Moffatt.

The sea turtle arrived at the aquarium in 2014 and only weighed 75 pounds. Now, she weights nearly 205 pounds and is estimated to be 15-years-old. Scientists expect her to live to 100-years-old.

"She is so charismatic. She is so beautiful and we can make a difference. We are in for the long haul. We are committed to this animal. We are happy to help," said Moffatt.

The Birch Aquarium sees about 450,000 visitors a year.

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