Researchers have created customisable antibiotic implants that can be made on consumer-grade 3D printers.
The technology could lead to personalised medical treatments that can be easily made for individual patients.
The custom bead-shaped medical implants were created by a team from Louisiana Tech University who say they can target drug delivery using their creation.
The beads, which may contain cancer-fighting compounds or any other antibacterial substance, would be broken down by the body over time.
The major advantage of their work is the ability to create the beads on a 3D printer that could be purchased by anyone.
Jeffery Weisman, a doctoral student in Louisiana Tech’s biomedical engineering programme, said their work was accessible to a wide number of people.
He said: “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 that his team’s work used bioplastics that can be re-absorbed by the body.
Current beads, which can be made for individual patients, have to be hand-made, cannot be fully broken down by the body and also require surgery to be removed.
He said: “After identifying the usefulness of the 3D printers, we realised there was an opportunity for rapid prototyping using this fabrication method.
“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.”
Their work brings down the scale and cost of existing technologies that lead to personalised medical treatments.
“Currently, embedding of additives in plastic requires industrial-scale facilities to ensure proper dispersion throughout the extruded plastic,” said Dr David K. Mills who led the work.
“Our method enables dispersion on a tabletop scale, allowing researchers to easily customise 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 colourants and cosmetic properties.”
Image one courtesy of Louisiana Tech University