3D printing is the production of a three dimensional structure utilizing an additive process. The mechanism is based on layering of a printing material to form the 3D image that is often called a “replica” of an object. The printing material could be a metal, liquid, ceramic or plastic. However, in medicine, the printing material may comprise of living cells. 3D printing in medicine is used to produce biological structures or organs to support or substitute a diseased or dysfunctional organ or structure.
The application of 3D printing ranges from tissue and prosthetic organs manufacturing for transplantation to anatomical models restructuring. The researchers suggested that 3D printing can also be utilized in pharmaceutical industry to conduct drug delivery research. 3D printing in medicine is potentially helpful in producing custom designed and cost effective biological products.
Current Uses of 3D Printing
At present, 3D printing is used in the fabrication of implants, prosthetics and models used in anatomical education and therapeutic medicine. Researchers have indicated that 3D printing can be used in cardiac surgery to task train, and plan an elective surgery to understand the anatomical structures, defects and aortic roots of the heart of a patient. The technology could also profit the prosthetic medicine by making implantable models such as cardiac valves that will be custom made for each patient.
The technology will completely revolutionize the prosthetic industry as their will be no constraints such as organ rejection and chances of graft versus host reactions. The technology has been effectively used in orthopedic medicine to fabricate limbs and other implants. It is also applied in dentistry to make dental implants. Beside its application in surgery and prosthetics, 3d printing technology is successfully employed in the pharmaceutical industry.
The technology is flourishing and the researchers believe that it will transform the future of pharmaceutical industry by enhancing the reproducibility of the drugs. The modification, control and precision of drug manufacturing and research will enable the industry to produce “personalized drugs” specified for patient conditions and age.
3D printing technology is promising for the pharmaceutical industry and future of personal medicine. As of now, the technology is facilitating the surgical procedures, prosthetics, pharmaceutical industry, organ fabrication and transplantation. Although, the technology is in its infancy period, it is a reality and not a fantasy. However, it requires extensive research, time for expansion and regulation to ensure reliability and safety.
Keywords: 3D printing, medicine, prosthetic medicine