Researchers create new 3D printed implants

September 30, 2014

Staff Reporter



A research team from Louisiana Tech’s biomedical engineering program has pioneered a method that uses commercial, off-the-shelf 3D printers that make medical implants partially made of antibiotic and cancer-treating materials.


Connor Nicholson, a doctoral candidate in nanosystems engineering, said his research team had been working on making the implants since May.


He called them proprietary works in the biomedical field.


“What we have created so far is a catheter with gentamicin sulfate, a commonly used antibiotic,” Nicholson said.

“Also a bead that may be implanted at an infection site also loaded with gentamicin sulfate, and a small yellow disk made of methotrexate, a common chemotherapeutic.”


Nicholson noted Industry standard catheters or implants must be surgically removed after a few weeks once their antibiotic coating wears off and bacterias start to grow in the afflicted area.

The new implants not only kill more bacteria than commercial ones, they also biodegrade inside the patient’s body, eliminating the second surgery standard, he said.

“That second surgery could compromise someone’s health status and make them prone to catching something else,” said David K. Mills, professor of biological sciences and biomedical engineering at Tech.

Until now, the only additives used in medical implants were for aesthetic purposes, like colors, he said.

“Having an additive in the filament that isn’t just color is beneficial because you can then start to tailor the material properties,” Nicholson said.


Mills said these customized implants would let doctors treat patients with more accuracy than the field has ever seen before at a cost-effective rate.


The research team’s 3D printer, called the MakerBot, is about the size of a microwave oven and can create implants in minutes.

“There are a lot of wonderfully designed hand-built 3D printers that will never see mass production,” Mills said.


“But this can be done at an industrial scale. This can be done at your doctor ‘s or your dentist’s office.”


Mills said doctors would now be able to treat patients on a personal level never seen before with these types of treatments.


He said they are now working on filing patents and arranging flight plans for biomedical conferences in California later this school year.



Email comments to bsl008@latech.edu.


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