3D-printed tablets offer taste of personalized seven-second medicine
One of the many promising uses for 3D printing is the creation of personalized medicines, in which dosages and drug combinations can be tailored to an individual's needs. A new advance in this area has demonstrated how these types of medicines could be produced onsite and on-demand, with a printing technique that produces tablets in a matter of seconds.
The breakthrough is the work of scientists at University College London (UCL), who were looking to build on a 3D printing technique known as vat photopolymerization. In the context of medicine production, this method involves a resin containing dissolved drugs and a photoreactive chemical, which can be solidified by light during printing to form a tablet.
As is typical with 3D printing, the resin is extruded layer-by-layer to form the desired object, and as it stands this takes minutes. But the UCL team has been able to shorten this to mere seconds by manipulating the light in a highly-controlled way.
The technique is called volumetric 3D printing, and rather than a layer-by-layer approach it cures the entire resin structure at the same time. It does so by shining images of different angles of the desired object onto the resin, adjusting the intensity of the light until polymerization occurs simultaneously.
The scientists used this approach to fabricate 3D-printed tablets loaded with paracetamol within 17 seconds. By tweaking the composition of the resin the team could also fine-tune the drug release rates of the tablets. This also enabled some tablets to be printed even faster, in as little as seven seconds in some cases.
Though paracetamol was used as the model drug in the experiments, the scientists say it is just one of many that can be created through the process. They imagine the technology being put to use in fast-paced clinical settings, where patients could turn to for medicines tailored to their individual needs.
“Personalized 3D-printed medicines are evolving at a rapid pace and reaching the clinic," said co-lead author Dr Alvaro Goyanes. "To match the fast-paced clinical environment, we have developed a 3D printer that produces tablets within seconds. This technology could be a game changer for the pharmaceutical industry.”
The research was published in the journal Additive Manufacturing.
Source: University College London