Apr 11, 2017 | By David
Some of the most "productive" 3D printing work of recent times has been carried out at the Institute for Integrative Nanosciences in Dresden, Germany. We reported before on its 3D printed spermbots, microscopic motor-enhanced sperm designed to improve fertility. Now a group of researchers at the Institute have come up with a clever new way of delivering anti-cancer drugs to the female reproductive system, again using sperm cells and a tiny 3D printed device.
The WHO estimates that cervical cancer was responsible for the deaths of around 266,000 women worldwide in 2012 alone, while gynaecological cancers, along with other conditions like endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory diseases, are particularly difficult to treat with drugs because of the environmental features of the vagina, cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes. Unfortunately, a delivery system that is able to navigate these tricky environments without being damaged or causing further damage itself is yet to be discovered. Tiny soluble bubbles and biologically engineered bacteria have both been tested as vehicles for the crucial anti-cancer drugs, but they have presented specific difficulties that have been difficult to overcome, such as dilution, immune responses, and break-down from the body’s enzymes.
Researchers at the Institute for Integrative Nanosciences, in collaboration with a team at the Technical University of Chemnitz, are now trialling carriers for anti-cancer drugs that seem ideally suited to navigating this environment: sperm cells. The research was carried out using bovine sperm cells and a type of chemotherapy medication called doxorubicin, while the sperm’s specific targeting of the cancerous area (and its eventual release of the drug) was made possible thanks to an advanced form of 3D printing technology. Known as nanolithography, the technique allows for the production of complex polymeric structures at an incredibly small scale, on the level of nanometers. A microtube consisting of four arms, or a ‘‘tetrapod,’’ was 3D printed and fitted to the sperm. This was then covered with a layer of iron and a layer of titanium, completing the "micromotor."
The metallic coating of the micromotor allowed for the sperm to be guided, using magnetic fields, directly to the affected area in the reproductive system. When the target cells were reached, the impact caused the microtube’s arms to stretch, releasing the dose. Initial tests proved successful, although there is some way to go in terms of perfecting the technique, which has so far only been tested in a petri dish in a lab.
Concluding remarks of the research, which was published on arXiv.org, were positive but pointed to improvements that could be made: ‘‘Although there are still some challenges to overcome before this system can be applied in in vivo environments (e.g. imaging, biodegradation of the synthetic part, multiple sperms carrying and delivery, and improved control of sperm release), sperm-hybrid systems may be envisioned to be applied in in situ cancer diagnosis and treatment in the near future.”
It’s mind-blowing to see 3D printing used on such a small scale, and we can only hope to see more innovations of this kind in medical research, as the technology allows for new life-saving possibilities that previous generations could only dream of.
Posted in 3D Printing Application
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Alvaro wrote at 4/12/2017 3:52:01 AM:
Thinking out of box that is the way to fight against this disease