Dec 14, 2017 | By Benedict

Researchers from the University Hospital Zurich, ETH Zurich, and the University of Zurich have joined forces to make patient-specific, drug-coated stents with a 3D printer. The project has received more than $2.37 million in funding.

Researchers from ETH Zurich (pictured) and two other insitutes will contribute to an ambitious medical 3D printing project

Narrowing of the respiratory tract can occur after injury, such as a blow to the throat area, or because of disease, when malformations, infections, and tumors can cause the airway to close up. Whatever the cause, narrowing of the tract is a big problem, since it can lead to shortness of breath or even suffocation.

One way to deal with narrowing of the respiratory tract involves the use of a stent, a kind of temporary splint that can keep a patient breathing normally while giving the problem area the time and space to heal or allowing surgeons to perform a required procedure. However, since patients all have different anatomies, sometimes mass-produced stents won’t work in particular cases.

The need for patient-specific stents has now been recognized by three Swiss institutes, who have joined forces for a huge splint development project. Representatives from the Interventional Lung Center at the University Hospital Zurich, ETH Zurich, and the Veterinary Institute of the University of Zurich will attempt to develop 3D printed, patient-specific stents for respiratory tract support and other medical uses.

The joint effort, which is being supported with CHF 2,341,446 ($2.37 million) in funding from the Swiss National Science Foundation, seeks to use 3D printing in order to make both a tracheostomy tube and bronchial stent. A large interdisciplinary research group is needed for the ambitious project because it aims to develop 3D printable base materials for the stents and carry out extensive testing on the finished devices.

The 3D printed stents will be coated with drugs to improve patient recovery

One of the most important aspects of the stent project, one which requires a high level of medical expertise, is the goal of making the 3D printed stents from “pharmaceutical inks.” ETH Zurich researchers Jean-Christophe Leroux and Prof. André Studart, with the help of three individual laboratories of ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich, will create a 3D printing material that is not only strong and durable enough for building structures, but which offers decisive medical advantages over other materials.

Ordinary stents are generally made from materials like nitinol or silicone, which can cause side effects like scar tissue, infections, and severe mucus formation. The new 3D printable materials will purportedly avoid or minimize these side effects.

But there’s even more medical functionality at work in these new stents. The tailor-made 3D printed devices, as well as keeping the respiratory tract physically unobstructed in a medically safe way, will be able deliver targeted and controlled medication or antimicrobial agents in the body. The researchers believe that, by coating the 3D printed stents with cytostatic drugs, growth of malignant tumors can be prevented or contained.

This ultimately means that patients will have to undergo fewer injections or other treatments in order to receive the drugs they need to recover.

In addition to developing suitable materials for the patient-specific stents, the Swiss research team will also develop suitable designs using CT scan data, after which the 3D printed devices will be subjected to a hands-on trial led by Dr. Daniel Franzen, Chief Physician at the Department of Pulmonology at the University Hospital Zurich, and Prof. Brigitte von Rechenberg from the Veterinary Institute of the University of Zurich.

The big-budget medical research project could have implications for other areas of medicine, and even other areas of 3D printing.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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