An LSU Health Shreveport medical student, working with a team of researchers at Tech, has developed an innovative method to make custom medical implants to deliver chemotherapy and antibiotics. The process uses consumer-grade 3D printers and common biocompatible materials. Custom 3D print filaments developed by the team contain the drugs.

Jeffery Weisman, who has completed two years of medical school, is also a doctoral student at Tech as part of a unique MD/PhD program offered jointly by the two institutions. He co-led the team comprised of doctoral students and research faculty from Louisiana Tech's biomedical engineering and nanosystems engineering programs.

“It is truly novel and a worldwide first to be 3D printing custom devices with antibiotics and chemotherapeutics,” said Dr. David K. Mills, professor of biological sciences and biomedical engineering, who challenged the team to come up with an innovative use of the 3D technology.

The team devised a way to “load” the drugs onto biocompatible materials that can then be “printed” in various shapes, such as beads or disks. These can then be implanted at the site of a severe infection or localized to target a tumor while avoiding damage to other tissues or organs. A distinct advantage of the process over current implants is that the material used to create them is biocompatible and absorbable, meaning it is naturally broken down by the body over time. Current implant materials are not absorbable by the body, so patients now face surgeries to both put in and take out the implants. This can be especially problematic for the elderly, diabetics or people with chronic wounds. Another advantage of the new process is that the anti-infective and chemotherapy compounds can be added uniformly via the printing process so the drug is released equally and safely in the right amount.

LSU Health Shreveport Clinical Microbiology Lab Director Gerald Capraro, PhD, confirmed the research findings by verifying that the antibiotics in the filaments were preventing bacterial growth.

3D printing is the processes for making a three-dimensional object of almost any shape by laying down successive layers of material under computer control. The process was developed in the 1980s and has largely been used to make inexpensive tools and parts for manufacturing. In recent years, forays have been made into the medical arena.

 “One of the greatest benefits of this technology is that it can be done using any consumer 3D printer and can be used anywhere in the world,” Weisman said.

Weisman, who works in Dr. Mills' lab, partnered with Connor Nicholson, a Louisiana Tech doctoral candidate in nanosystems engineering and member of a lab operated by Dr. Chester Wilson, associate professor of electrical and nanosystems engineering to develop the technology in collaboration with Mills and Mill's lab students Karthik Tappa and Uday Jammalamadaka.

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