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Skip to 0 minutes and 12 seconds In biological terms, we are engineering controlled delivery systems, controlled delivery systems for biologically active molecules. This is also the basis of other applications in releasing anti-inflammatories, immunosuppressant agents, as required for medical implants. So at the moment, we’re looking at using 3D-printed structures in the treatment of epilepsy. So for us to be able to provide drugs in different quantities and different times, and to perhaps be able to control that release on demand is very exciting. And perhaps give us new ways of dealing with this chronic problem, which, at the moment, isn’t adequately treated by medications that we have.

Skip to 0 minutes and 52 seconds If we can get them direct to the source of the problem, and if we can take a more sophisticated approach as to how the agents are released, perhaps using different release sequences to modify the way the brain is working, this would potentially offer big advantages, a huge step forward. And most particularly, if we can also link that to systems which allow us to trigger that release on demand, or in response to some signal from the brain such as seizure activity. And we may be able to biofabricate skin that, in a timed way, helps to release pharmacologic agents. So wound healing really is a very intricate cascade of events.

Skip to 1 minute and 30 seconds And to be able to mimic or to release agents in a similar way to natural wound healing will be a great advance. The idea that the materials could be triggered so that they are available at the right point in time is extremely important. Because usually, with any restorative or regenerative process in the body, it’s not just having the right chemical factors or proteins there. It’s having them there in a particular order and in a particular time sequence that is important. So in fairly passive systems, we’re stuck with the idea that the changes occur pretty much all at once. And you don’t have this possibility of turning on or turning off various chemical factors to guide the healing process.

Skip to 2 minutes and 27 seconds But with 3D printing, I think that becomes quite possible.

Controlled drug delivery

Delivering the right drug at the right time in the right place - what might be possible in the future

Alongside the addition of bioactives the ability to add drugs to 3D printed ‘bits for bodies’ is also currently being investigated for future treatment possibilities.

Their capacity to provide sustained delivery of bioactive molecules, such as proteins, has been intensively exploited in a broad range of biomedical applications. Also their mechanical properties make them attractive coating materials in controlled delivery for both stimulation and recording devices, in order to improve neural survival and neuron-electrode proximity.

Research in controlled drug delivery is still at an early stage, but will greatly benefit from the enriched knowledge and experience accrued in the field of hydrogel, especially for the applications in protein delivery/therapy and tissue engineering.

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This video is from the free online course:

Bioprinting: 3D Printing Body Parts

University of Wollongong