Editorial Feature

How 3D Printing Could Be an Accelerator of Personalized Medicine

Recent years have seen the rapid expansion of the global 3D printing market, with recent figures showing it was worth over $13 billion in 2020, with predictions it will grow at an impressive CAGR of 21% through to 2028. 3D printing has quickly developed in numerous industries, particularly in the medical sector where it is now helping to facilitate a paradigm shift from traditional one size fits all” to personalized medicine. Here, we discuss how 3D printing is helping to develop the field of personalized medicine and what implications this may have for the future of medicine and therapeutics.

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Using 3D Printing for Precision Pharmaceuticals

3D printing was first used in the medical sector in the 1990s where it was used to create dental implants and custom prosthetics. In 2008, the world’s first 3D-printed prosthetic leg was created. Since then, the number of 3D printing applications in the medical sector has grown vastly.

Now, 3D printing is being used in the creation of customized prosthetics, tissue and organ fabrication, the production of implants, and anatomical models. It is also being used in pharmaceutical research and is particularly impactful in drug delivery, dosing, and discovery. In particular, it is being leveraged to facilitate the emerging field of personalized medicine, where a patient's genetic profile is used to guide tailored therapeutics that are suited to the needs of the individual, making them, in theory, more efficient and effective with reduced side effects.

3D printing involves the intricate and accurate production of a pre-programmed shape with the help of various pieces of computer software. Personalized medicine is positioned to take advantage of this technology, using its capability to produce precise, unique shapes in small quantities to custom-design molecules with specific pharmaceutical profiles. The shape and size of pharmaceutical molecules can impact their therapeutic properties, such as their dosage and release profile. Using 3D printing, scientists can develop medicine that is uniquely designed to match the specific needs of the individual.

Producing Personalized Drugs with 3D Printing

One of the most important uses of 3D printing in the field of personalized medicine is the production of drugs with personalized doses. Back in 2015, the world’s first 3D-printed medicine was launched. The medicine offers a personalized way to treat epilepsy by giving doctors the opportunity to prescribe doses that are adjusted to the patient’s needs. The drug marked the beginning of customized pills and showed the industry what was possible.

Aprecia, which manufactures the epilepsy drug, has also developed the drug with the advent of its ZipDose® technology that allows the drug to dissolve in the patient’s mouth, a benefit for patients with epilepsy or those who have trouble swallowing.

3D printing has also facilitated the preparation of orodispersible film (ODF) formulations. Inkjet printing methods have been leveraged to produce single and multilayered sheets with drugs that can be dissolved in the mouth without the addition of water. These sheets can be produced with specific doses that allow clinicians to move away from the one-size-fits-all method.

Studies have shown the success of using the inkjet method in the dropwise additive manufacturing of pharmaceutical products (DAMPP). This process utilizes drop-on-demand technology to produce pharmaceuticals in various dosage forms. As a result, scientists have established self-emulsifying drug delivery systems (SEDDS) which have increased the solubility of drugs.

The binder jetting method of 3D printing has been thoroughly researched in its use in creating precision medicine. Studies have shown that the type and concentration of excipients used in the binder jetting process can significantly impact the pharmacological properties of the medicine. Filling agents with properties such as high-water solubility, moistening agents with high water content, and binders with high viscosity in solution have been proven to improve the hardness and binding strength of the tablets as well as extending their disintegration time.

It has been demonstrated that the compressive strength of a tablet is influenced by the weight percentage of polymer in the binder. In comparison with linear polymers, 4-arm star polymers have lower viscosities, allowing them to be jetted at higher contraptions, resulting in stronger tablets.

Finally, the 3D printing method of fused deposition modeling (FDM) has been explored as a way of producing various pharmaceutical products. Research has shown that FDM can successfully produce pharmaceuticals with a range of shapes and release profiles. It has also been used to create bilayer tablets, sustained-release, capsule-shaped tablets, and multi-compartmental capsules.

Changing the Future of Medicine

The benefits of precision medicine are plentiful, including shifting the emphasis in medicine from reaction to prevention, enabling clinicians to predict patient susceptibility to disease, improve disease detection, predict disease progression, customize disease-prevention strategies to the individual, produce more effective drugs, and prevent side effects.

3D printing will help revolutionize medicine and health care by helping to develop precision medicine and making it more accessible. It is likely that 3D printing will play a vital role in enhancing therapeutic offerings and patient outcomes.

References and Further Reading

Carlota V. (2020) Are 3D printed drugs the future of personalized medicine? 3D Natives. [Online] Available at: https://www.3dnatives.com/en/3d-printed-drugs-personalized-medicine-140520204/

Colm Gorey. (2020) How 3D bioprinting could help usher in era of personalised medicine. Silicon Republic. [Online] Available at: https://www.siliconrepublic.com/machines/3d-bioprinting-cellink-erik-gatenholm-personalised-medicine

Vaz, V. and Kumar, L. (2021) 3D Printing as a Promising Tool in Personalized Medicine. AAPS PharmSciTech, 22(1) https://link.springer.com/article/10.1208/s12249-020-01905-8

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

Sarah Moore

Written by

Sarah Moore

After studying Psychology and then Neuroscience, Sarah quickly found her enjoyment for researching and writing research papers; turning to a passion to connect ideas with people through writing.


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