A team of researchers at
The team comprised of doctoral students and research faculty from Louisiana Tech's biomedical engineering and nanosystems engineering programs collaborated to create filament extruders that can make medical-quality 3D printing filaments. Creating these filaments, which have specialized properties for drug delivery, is a new concept that can result in smart drug delivering medical implants or catheters.
"After identifying the usefulness of the 3D printers, we realized there was an opportunity for rapid prototyping using this fabrication method," said
According to Weisman, personalized medicine and patient specific medication regiments is a current trend in healthcare. He says this new method of creating medically compatible 3D printing filaments will offer hospital pharmacists and physicians a novel way to deliver drugs and treat illness.
"One of the greatest benefits of this technology is that it can be done using any consumer printer and can be used anywhere in the world," Weisman said.
Weisman, who works out of a lab directed by Dr.
"We had been working on several applications of 3D printing," said Mills. "Several students in my lab including Jeff and Connor, who was a guest researcher from
From that point, the technology evolved and has become a highly innovative approach to overcoming many of the limitations encountered in current drug delivery systems. Most of today's antibiotic implants, or "beads," are made out of bone cements which have to be hand-mixed by a surgeon during a surgical procedure and contain toxic carcinogenic substances. These beads, which are actually a type of Plexiglas, do not break down in the body and require additional surgery for removal. Weisman and his team's custom 3D print filaments can be made of bioplastics which can be resorbed by the body to avoid the need for additional surgery.
The nature of the 3D printing process developed at Louisiana Tech allows for the creation of partially hollow beads that provide for a greater surface area and increased drug delivery and control. Localized treatment with the 3D printed antibiotic beads also avoids large systemic drug dosages that are toxic and can cause damage to a patient's liver and kidneys.
"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."
The team said the environment at Louisiana Tech played a large role in this project making the progress it has, in a relatively short period of time. "The project has been able to advance to this point because of the support of and easy access to interdisciplinary facilities and outstanding faculty such as Drs. Mills, Wilson and [Dr.
"It is important to continue support of this research and to help bring Louisiana Tech to the forefront of rapid prototyping designs that will have impacts on a national scale."
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