As 3-D printing gains steam and moves beyond plastics, it could be applied to many other industries, revolutionising medicine on the way.
An Ohio based pharmaceutical company Aprecia has now developed a 3-D printing technology which creates a more porous pill structure - allowing higher dose pills to dissolve quicker and making them easier to swallow for some patients. The same technology also allows precise doses to be layered in the same structure. A UCL team have also developed a technique for printing different shapes, which affects drug release.
“For the last 50 years, we have manufactured tablets in factories and shipped them to hospitals, for the first time, this process means we can produce tablets much closer to the patient.”
While these developments don't create custom-made chemicals, they do allow different doses, shapes and types of pills to be varied easily, making medicine far more personal. These qualities change the ease of treatment, potency and the qualities of the structure alter how the dose itself is absorbed by each individual - allowing more gradual or instant doses.
As technology progresses, 3-D printing will likely move from structural to chemical customisation, effectively allowing downloadable molecule blueprints. Work has already began on a 'chemputer' in Glasgow University which aims to be a 3-D chemistry set, able to formulate custom molecules. Research at the University of Illinois has also revealed specs for another machine, which separates specific reactions into buildable 'blocks' and allows creation of multiple organic molecules through automated steps. These types of projects are still currently limited or in their infancy, but if a true chemical 3-D printer emerges it would totally change pharmaceuticals forever. Obscure molecules once excruciatingly hard to source could instead become synthesised much faster and new blueprints conjured up could be quickly tested, reinventing research and speeding everything up miraculously.
"GIVING PEOPLE THE ABILITY TO SYNTHESIZE MOLECULES WOULD BE GAME-CHANGING IN WAYS I CAN'T IMAGINE"
Read more at The Guardian