LA JOLLA, Calif. - A loggerhead sea turtle with multiple physical maladies is now swimming a little more easily with the help of a 3-D printed brace.
The female turtle was rescued from a New Jersey power plant and has been living at Birch Aquarium at Scripps. Aquarium officials said she suffered from a gap in her shell, abnormal spine curvature and fin paralysis - likely due to trauma she experienced in the wild - when she was rescued.
Aquarium staff teamed up with experts at UC San Diego's Digital Media Lab and Thornton Hospital to take CT and 3-D scans of the turtle to craft a brace to fill the gap, which an aquarium veterinarian said could result in gastrointestinal and urogenital complications if not treated.
The 3-D printed brace is made of rigid plastic and will perfectly fill her gap. It's also designed to help the creature maintain buoyancy as she rests in the water.
Because the turtle could grow to be 250 pounds, she will likely need to be fitted for a larger brace as she ages.
"This is truly an ocean rehabilitation success story," said Jenn Nero Moffatt, a senior director at the aquarium.