Sep 28, 2017 | By Benedict

Researchers at the University of Michigan have devised a vapor-jet 3D printing technique for depositing drug doses onto a variety of surfaces, including dissolvable Listerine tabs. The process could be employed in pharmacies, hospitals, and other locations.

3D printing is becoming more and more prominent in the field of medicine, with body parts, implants, and surgical equipment being 3D printed in order to ensure maximum efficiency during medical procedures.

It doesn’t sound quite right to many ears, but 3D printed drugs are also taking off in a big way. No, they’re not made of plastic or metal. Rather, 3D printing equipment can be used to precisely deposit certain quantities of pharmaceutical ingredients onto various substrates.

Researchers at the University of Michigan recently devised their own technique for 3D printing drug doses onto a variety of surfaces, including dissolvable Listerine tabs, glass, and stainless steel micro-needles.

The researchers say there is a “growing need to develop efficient methods for early-stage drug discovery, continuous manufacturing of drug delivery vehicles, and ultra-precise dosing of high potency drugs.” And 3D printing, they believe, could be the solution.

During a study led by Max Shtein, professor of materials science and engineering, and Olga Shalev, a graduate who worked on the project while a doctoral student in the same department, the researchers found that pure printed medication can do some amazing things, such as destroying cultured cancer cells in the lab as effectively as medication delivered by traditional means.

"A doctor or pharmacist can choose any number of medications, which the machine would combine into a single dose," Shtein said. "The machine could be sitting in the back of the pharmacy or even in a clinic.”

By adapting a technology from electronics manufacturing called organic vapor-jet printing, the group of researchers found they could print a fine crystalline structure over a large surface area, helping printed medications dissolve more easily.

This ability to dissolve easily means the 3D printing process could be used to create a whole new variety of drugs that would otherwise be impossible to take orally though pills or capsules.

"Pharma companies have libraries of millions of compounds to evaluate, and one of the first tests is solubility," Shtein said. "About half of new compounds fail this test and are ruled out. Organic vapor jet printing could make some of them more soluble, putting them back into the pipeline.”

Shtein and Shalev were joined on the project by researchers from a number of departments, including the Michigan Engineering departments of chemical engineering and biomedical engineering, as well as the College of Pharmacy and the Department of Physics in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.

So just how do you 3D print a pharmaceutical ingredient?

With the University of Michigan’s method, the active pharmaceutical ingredient needs to be heated, evaporated, and mixed with a stream of heated, inert gas like nitrogen. The mixture of gas and the evaporated ingredient can then be passed through a nozzle directed at a cooled surface, upon which the medication eventually condenses and returns to a solid form in a thin crystalline film.

Adjusting the 3D printing parameters allows the researchers to adjust the physical properties of this crystalline film, even without the use of solvents, additives, or post-processing.

“Organic vapor jet printing may be useful for a variety of drug delivery applications for the safe and effective delivery of therapeutic agents to target tissues and organs," said Geeta Mehta, the Dow Corning Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Biomedical Engineering and a co-author on the paper.

Since the 3D printed drug ingredients are easily dissolvable, they could also be useful in cell culture experiments, where compounds generally need to be dissolved in a chemical solvent before being applied to cells. The easily vapor-jet printed drugs, on the other hand, can dissolve in water, eliminating the need for a solvent and making the experiments more accurate.

“When researchers use solvents to dissolve drugs during the testing process, they're applying those drugs in a way that's different from how they would be used in people, and that makes the results less useful,” explained Anna Schwendeman, an assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences at U-M and an author on the paper. "Organic vapor jet printing could make those tests much more predictive, not to mention simpler.”

Ultimately, the drug 3D printing technique could allow pharmaceutical companies to shorten the time it takes to carry out clinical testing in humans, allowing them to get (non-printed) drugs to patients more quickly. In the longer term, the 3D printed drugs could even be sold commercially.

The researchers see vapor-jet printing eventually being scaled to mass production, including roll-to-roll continuous manufacturing.

The research paper, “Printing of small molecular medicines from the vapor phase,” has been published in the journal Nature Communications.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Linda wrote at 9/29/2017 8:01:32 PM:

How far off is this to be available for use?

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