NOV 16, 2017 7:20 AM PST

This Lab Has Discovered a Way to Print Drugs

Classic science fiction movies and even cartoons from decades ago predicted flying cars and food replicators and apartment complexes in the sky, and while not all of that has happened, in the field of pharmaceutical research, there is one advance that's pretty futuristic.

Researchers at the University of Michigan have come up with some technology that prints a dosage of medication on a small surface. Using "vapor jet" printing, a form of 3D printing, precise dosages of medication could someday be custom printed at a pharmacy, while the patient waits.

The process involves putting medication doses on a variety of devices. Dissolvable strips could be used, skin patches, micro-needles or other delivery methods and it works for a single medication as well as combinations of different drugs on the same delivery patch.

Max Shtein is a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Michigan and together with co-author Olga Shalev, a recent doctoral student and now graduate, the concept was developed and tested. For a project like this, experts from several parts of the university were needed. The College of Pharmacy of course, as well as team members from the departments of physics, chemical engineering, and biomedical engineering.

The technique was inspired by how some electronics are manufactured. Organic vapor-jet printing can take a super fine mist and spray it over a large surface. The substance, that is, whatever active ingredient is needed, can be heated, usually in its powdered form. Once it's evaporated, it's combined with an inert gas, like nitrogen. The evaporated ingredient and the gas are piped through a nozzle and sprayed onto a cool surface. Because the substance is hot and the surface is cool, it condenses and then forms a crystalline structure on the surface.

The main advantage is that it improves solubility. For a pharmaceutical compound to be used in medication, it has to be soluble. Shtein explained, "Pharma companies have libraries of millions of compounds to evaluate, and one of the first tests is solubility. 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."

The solubility factor would come in handy during testing as well. Most pharmaceutical compounds have to have a solvent added to them when they are tested against cultured cells and this impacts test results. The vapor printed drugs would not need a solvent. In tests in the lab, Shtein said the compounds they tested did just fine against cultured cancer cells, killing them just as efficiently as traditional delivery methods.

Other advantages are shorter clinical testing processes which could get the drugs to market faster and an easier way to transport medication since the film is very stable. Also, it's possible to custom blend medications onto one strip, eliminating the needs for multiple pills and dosages. Staying healthy isn't always convenient, so having drugs that are precision tuned a particular patient's needs, stable in transport and simpler to take are all factors that could make this method the future of pharmaceuticals. Take a look at the video to learn more.

Sources: University of Michigan, Gizmodo, Nature Communications

About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
OCT 01, 2020
Cardiology
Investigating Inflammation in Coronary Artery Bypass Grafts
OCT 01, 2020
Investigating Inflammation in Coronary Artery Bypass Grafts
The heart is a vital part of the body that can last one hundred years, yet even a small change can cause massive consequ ...
OCT 01, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Canadian Scientists Hope to Take Lead in Neutron Research, Again
OCT 01, 2020
Canadian Scientists Hope to Take Lead in Neutron Research, Again
(Pixabay/geralt) Neutron sources are the key to advancing research in many areas such as energy storage, mechanical engi ...
OCT 06, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
Radioactive Tracer Shines the Floodlights on Inflammation
OCT 06, 2020
Radioactive Tracer Shines the Floodlights on Inflammation
A patient checks into the hospital with difficulty breathing. Is inflammation to blame? How can physicians visualize are ...
OCT 13, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
Test for Diabetes Checks If the Liver Is Responding
OCT 13, 2020
Test for Diabetes Checks If the Liver Is Responding
Glucagon is a hormone that prevents blood glucose levels from dropping too low by stimulating the liver to convert store ...
OCT 15, 2020
Immunology
The Immune Cells Giving Menopausal Women Higher BPs
OCT 15, 2020
The Immune Cells Giving Menopausal Women Higher BPs
In general, men have higher blood pressures than women, giving them an increased risk of developing heart disease. After ...
OCT 22, 2020
Microbiology
SARS-CoV-2 Has Multiple Routes Into Cells
OCT 22, 2020
SARS-CoV-2 Has Multiple Routes Into Cells
Since the pandemic virus SARS-CoV-2 emerged on the scene late last year, it's left a trail of devastation around the glo ...
Loading Comments...