Louisiana Tech University
Scientists use MakerBot for Medical Implants
Yesterday, the latest report from Gartner suggest that consumer 3D printing was still some way off but medical applications were going to be, and already are, the most important sector for the industry.
But what about a breakthrough, which could see the medical industry use of consumer machines on a mass scale? I bet Gartner didn’t think of that did they? Though how could they have seeing as this breakthrough from Louisiana Tech University was only published today?
Using a MakerBot Replicator (5th Gen) a team of researchers have developed an innovative method of delivering localised targeted antibiotics to patients in the form of a degradable medical implant.
Current antibiotic implants or “beads” are often used to stop infection during surgery, however the current generation of implants are hand-mixed by a surgeon during surgical procedure and are made from materials that the human body cannot break down thus meaning further surgery is required to remove the implant.
The process being developed at Louisiana Tech uses a custom-made bio-filament that can deliver targeted drugs to patients; the extruded implant is then absorbed into the body, thus not requiring any further surgery.
Jeffery Weisman, a doctoral student in Louisiana Tech’s biomedical engineering program said: “Through the addition of nanoparticles and/or other additives, this technology becomes much more viable using a common 3D printing material that is already biocompatible. The material can be loaded with antibiotics or other medicinal compounds, and the implant can be naturally broken down by the body over time.”
Weisman and a team that compromised of Professor of Biological Sciences and Biomedical Engineering Dr. David K. Mills and Connor Nicholson, a doctoral candidate in Nanosystems Engineering have created filament extruders that can make these medical-quality 3D printing filaments, which have this unique property of drug delivery.
The team also worked with the Kickstarter success story Extrusionbot, who created a pellet to filament extruder for home use. Extrusionbot provided important materials support throughout the development and testing process.
“We had been working on several applications of 3D printing,” said Dr David K. Mills. “Several students in my lab including Jeff and Connor, who was a guest researcher from Dr. Wilson’s lab, had been working with colleagues for some time. I sent an email to them and asked them the question, ‘Do you think it would be possible to print antibiotic beads using some kind of PMMA or other absorbable material?’”
“Currently, embedding of additives in plastic requires industrial-scale facilities to ensure proper dispersion throughout the extruded plastic,” explains Mills. “Our method enables dispersion on a tabletop scale, allowing researchers to easily customize additives to the desired levels. There are not even any industrial processes for antibiotics or special drug delivery as injection molding currently focuses more on colorants and cosmetic properties.”
“It is truly novel and a worldwide first to be 3D printing custom devices with antibiotics and chemotherapeutics.”