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3D printers could create customized drugs


Researchers at the University of Glasgow suggested in a paper published on April 15, 2012, that 3D printers could be used in the future to create customized drugs making healthcare access more efficient and affordable.



Scientists at the University of Glasgow are researching the use of 3D printers to create customized drugs and chemicals, according to the BBC.

In a paper published on April 15 in the Nature Chemistry journal, the researchers revealed that they used the 3D printing system, worth £1,250 ($2,000) to fabricate a range of organic and inorganic compounds, some of which they said could be used for cancer treatments.

The researchers predicted that the technique could be used by pharmaceutical companies within five years to make customized medicines, and be available to the public in 20 years time.

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Mark Symes, one of the researchers, told the BBC, "We are showing that you can take chemical constituents, pass them through a printer and create what is effectively a chemical synthesizer in which the reaction occurs allowing you to get out something different at the end."

"We're extrapolating from that to say that in the future you could buy common chemicals, slot them into something that 3D prints, just press a button to mix the ingredients and filter them through the architecture and at the bottom you would get out your prescription drug," he said.

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Using 3D printers and open-source software, the team built "reactionware," vessels for chemical reactions made from a polymer gel, according to TG Daily. The process the team used is similar to large-scale chemical engineering, adding chemicals to the gel and making the vessel a part of the reaction process.

Professor Lee Cronin said, "It’s long been possible to have lab materials custom-made to include windows or electrodes, for example, but it’s been expensive and time-consuming," according to TG Daily.

He added, "We can fabricate these reactionware vessels using a 3D printer in a relatively short time. Even the most complicated vessels we’ve built have only taken a few hours."

Cronin said 3D printers could revolutionize healthcare in the developing world, making it more affordable and efficient.

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The National Geographic showed how a 3D printer works in replicating tools in this video report from last year: