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Scientists develop technique for on-site printing of medications


Multiple medications can be printed into a single dose on a dissolvable strip, micro-needle patch or other dosing device

Scientists, including those of Indian origin, have developed a technology that can print pure, ultra-precise doses of drugs onto a wide variety of surfaces, and could enable on-site printing of medications at hospitals and other locations.

The technique, developed by researchers at the University of Michigan (U-M) in the US, can print multiple medications into a single dose on a dissolvable strip, micro-needle patch or other dosing device.

According to researchers, including U-M research assistant Siddharth Suresh Borsadia, it could make life easier for patients who must now take multiple medications every day, and also accelerate drug development.

Pure printed medication can destroy cultured cancer cells in the lab as effectively as medication delivered by traditional means, which rely on chemical solvents to enable the cells to absorb the medication, researchers said.

“A doctor or pharmacist can choose any number of medications, which the machine would combine into a single dose,” said Max Shtein, professor at the University of Michigan.

“The machine could be sitting in the back of the pharmacy or even in a clinic,” said Shtein, who led the study published in the journal Nature Communications.

The researchers adapted a technology from electronics manufacturing called organic vapour-jet printing.

One key advantage of the technique is that it can print a very fine crystalline structure over a large surface area.

This helps printed medications dissolve more easily, opening the door to a variety of potential new drugs that today are shelved because they do not dissolve well when administered with conventional approaches, including pills and capsules.

“Pharma companies have libraries of millions of compounds to evaluate, and one of the first tests is solubility,” Shtein said.

“About half of new compounds fail this test and are ruled out. Organic vapour jet printing could make some of them more soluble, putting them back into the pipeline,” he said.

The process begins by heating the active pharmaceutical ingredient – usually a powder – and evaporating it to combine it with a stream of heated, inert gas like nitrogen.

The evaporated medication travels, along with the gas, through a nozzle pointed at a cooled surface. The medication then condenses, sticking to the cooled surface in a thin crystalline film.

The formation of the film can be tightly controlled by fine-tuning the printing process. which requires no solvents, additives and post-processing.

“Organic vapour jet printing may be useful for a variety of drug delivery applications for the safe and effective delivery of therapeutic agents to target tissues and organs,” said Geeta Mehta, assistant professor at U-M.

The tight control over solubility may also be useful later in the drug testing process, when potential new drugs are applied to cultured cells in a lab.

Today, most compounds must be dissolved in a chemical solvent before they are applied to cells. The new technique could enable printed medications to dissolve easily in the water-based medium used to culture cells, without the need for a solvent.

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