Editors' ChoicePersonalized Medicine

Personalized drug tablets with 3D printing

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Science Translational Medicine  04 Nov 2015:
Vol. 7, Issue 312, pp. 312ec191
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aad5507

Three-dimensional (3D) printing is a relatively new technology that is set to revolutionize manufacturing. There is also strong interest in applying 3D printing to medicine. Although much of the research has been focused on tissue engineering applications, 3D printing holds potential for the development of new and customized medical devices and should enable more personalized medical care. One area of opportunity lies in the formulation of therapeutic tablets. For a given drug, different patients may need the active compound to be released from tablets at different rates to achieve the optimal effect. Current medications take a one-size-fits-all approach and do not account for the needs of the individual patient. To address this, Sun et al. described a new 3D printing technique that can engineer drug tablets with customizable release profiles.

The authors used 3D printing to engineer drug tablets that consist of 3 components: an impermeable outer membrane that protects all but one side of the tablet, a degradable polymer that contains the drug, and a degradable polymer that does not contain drugs. By controlling the shape of drug-containing polymer and its spatial orientation within the tablet, the authors demonstrated that drug release can be customized and controlled. The authors were able to generate drug tablets with pulsatile drug release kinetics as well as sustained release kinetics. They also showed that is possible to engineer tablets containing two drugs with different release kinetics.

Although these results are promising, several important challenges face the clinical translation of this technology. First, personalization of drug tablets requires the physician to know what the optimal drug release kinetics is for each patient. At this time, such information is largely unknown. Second, most 3D printing techniques do not have the necessary print speed to accommodate personalized drug tablet manufacturing. In addition, different therapeutics have different chemical properties and will require different types of polymers for encapsulation. Nevertheless, this article highlights the potential of 3D printing and other emerging technologies to impact medicine.

Y. Sun, S. Soh, Printing tablets with fully customizable release profiles for personalized medicine. Adv. Mater. 10.1002/adma.201504122 (2015). [Full Text]

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