A team of engineers at Louisiana Tech University, Ruston, has developed an innovative method of using off-the-shelf 3D printers and materials to fabricate custom medical implants that can contain antibacterial and chemotherapeutic compounds for targeted drug delivery.

The scientists created filament extruders that can make medical-quality 3D printing filaments with specialized properties for drug delivery, that, they say, can be used for 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,” said Jeffery Weisman, a doctoral student in Louisiana Tech’s biomedical engineering program. “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,” he added.

Many of today’s antibiotic bead implants are made from bone cements, which may contain toxic carcinogenic substances. The beads are actually a type of Plexiglas and do not break down in the body, requiring additional removal surgery, the engineers explained. Weisman’s team say that their custom 3D print filaments can be made of bioplastics, which can be resorbed by the body to avoid the need for additional surgery.