Researchers at Louisiana Tech University have come up with an innovative method of integrating 3D printing into the medical industry. There have been previous uses of 3D technology in several medical applications, ranging from implants and prosthetics to printing of human cells for medical use.
However, this new method involves the use of affordable 3D printers such as the MakerBot Replicator and other materials to engineer customized medical implants. These implants contain chemotherapeutic and antibacterial compounds that are useful in targeted drug delivery.
The use of the MakerBot 3D printers is likely to change the way doctors treat cancer patients and those fighting infection. It will possibly replace existing innovations that have limited use due to the need for expensive machines that cost over $300,000. Despite the drop in price of most laser sintering machines, the invention by Louisiana Tech researchers makes the use of low cost desktop 3D printers a popular choice for most enthusiasts.
The team of researchers consists of Jeffery Weisman, a doctoral student in the university’s bio-medical engineering program, Connor Nicholson, a Nano-systems engineering doctoral candidate, Extrusionbot, LLC of Phoenix and Dr. David K. Mills.
Louisiana Tech researches use Makerbot 3D printers for the target purpose by creating filament extruders that make quality 3D printing filaments. The filaments have special properties making them a suitable option for drug delivery to patients. If utilized appropriately, this innovation is likely to develop into a smart drug delivery technique for catheters or medical implants.
The basic idea of this innovation involves printing out custom drug emitting implants that can breakdown naturally within the body, releasing the drug to target areas of a patient’s body. The technology involved is highly beneficial since any 3D consumer printer can handle it.
Researchers can print the implantable beads in different shapes. Possibly, this will allow them to gain control over the total surface area and speed up the delivery of the drug into the body. Treatment of cancer and other infections will likely develop into a localized process that is more efficient with fewer side effects. It will also overcome most issues experienced by doctors while using the existing drug delivery methods.
Currently, most drug delivery implants are done in form of beads. These beads have to be developed from hand-mixed carcinogenic bone cements. As a result, they do not disintegrate in the body forcing the patient to undergo a second surgery to remove them.
Dr. Mill and the other members of the team had previously been working independently on various applications of 3D printing. Their realization of the usefulness of using 3D printers steered them into realizing the possibility of handling rapid prototyping by using the fabrication method.
The integration of nano-particles among other additives makes this new technology viable for use in common bio-compatible 3D printers. Currently, there are no industrial processes for special drug delivery or antibiotics. The existing injection molding only focuses on cosmetic properties and colorants.
To the best knowledge of the Louisiana Tech researchers their idea is still fresh as new. No one else has come up with such a method to fabricate antibiotic implants.