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Researchers Use 3D Printers to Create Custom Medical Implants

11 September 2014

A team of researchers at Louisiana Tech University has developed a method for using what they say is affordable, consumer-grade 3D printers and materials to fabricate custom medical implants that can contain antibacterial and chemotherapeutic compounds for targeted drug delivery.

The team, comprised of doctoral students and research faculty from Louisiana Tech's biomedical engineering and nanosystems engineering programs, collaborated to create filament extruders that can make medical-quality 3D printing filaments. Creating these filaments, which have specialized properties for drug delivery, is a concept that can result in smart drug-delivering medical implants or catheters.

"After identifying the usefulness of the 3D printers, we realized there was an opportunity for rapid prototyping using this fabrication method," says Jeffery Weisman, a doctoral student in Louisiana Tech's biomedical engineering program. "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.” He says the material can be loaded with antibiotics or other medicinal compounds, and the implant can be naturally broken down by the body over time.

According to Weisman, personalized medicine and patient specific medication regiments is a current trend in healthcare. He says this method of creating medically compatible 3D printing filaments will offer hospital pharmacists and physicians a way to deliver drugs and treat illness.

"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.

The research group also worked with Extrusionbot LLC of Phoenix, which provided materials support throughout the development and testing process.



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