Antibiotic ‘printing’ could improve drug testing

Posted on 18 Sep 2018 by Maddy White

HP might be best known for their range of printing solutions, but their most recent developments include printing antibiotics to test them quicker and eliminate potential resistant strains of the drug.

The HP D300e Digital Dispenser BioPrinter technolog
The HP D300e Digital Dispenser BioPrinter technology.

According to the NHS, hundreds of different types of antibiotics are available and 32.5 million are prescribed by GPs in England every year.

However, issues from strains of antibiotic-resistant viruses can be serious, spread quickly and be challenging to treat, and these are becoming an increasing cause of disability and death across the world.

A key reason for this is due to the misuse of antibiotics, leading the bacteria that is being treated to develop a resistance to the drug.

HP’s specialist bio unit is working with the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) on a pilot program to “print” and test antibiotics. This in an effort to find and stop antimicrobial resistant strains from spreading.

How does it work?

The HP D300e Digital Dispenser BioPrinter technology works by using the same set up as a regular ink printer, but instead dispenses any combination of drugs in volumes from picoliters (one trillionth of a litre) to microliters to be tested.

The BioPrinter “prints” for faster, more reliable dispensing of small molecules and biomolecules to enable drug discovery and genomic research.

The complexity of the human body means that the medical industry must work to minuscule scales. Utilising printing in its various different forms, like bio-inks and additive manufacturing, is a natural progression for the industry as its needs are increasingly complex and bespoke.

Learn how additive manufacturing is transforming the medical industry here.

If a printer can be programmed to dispense any combination of bio materials at a rapid speed, then the testing phase of drugs could be shortened. If the results could then be gathered, cleaned and analysed just as quickly, then outcomes could be concluded and necessary drugs that humans need could be approved and therefore accessed quicker.

Being able to test drugs with an unlimited amount of combinations could also mean that reactions could be predicted, and a higher amount of control could be available.

Additive manufacturing to prevent blindness

As the clear outer layer of the human eye, the cornea has a crucial role in focusing vision. Yet, according to the NHS there is a significant shortage of corneas available and eligible for transplant.

As the outermost layer of the human eye, the cornea has an important role in focusing vision - image courtesy of Depositphotos.
As the outermost layer of the human eye, the cornea has an important role in focusing vision – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

Scientists at the University of Newcastle have devised a 3D printed version of the human part, meaning the process could be used in the future to ensure there is no shortage of corneas.

10 million people worldwide require surgery to prevent corneal blindness as a result of diseases such as trachoma – an infectious eye disorder.

In addition to this, almost five million people suffer total blindness due to corneal scarring, according to the university.

This innovation shows how serious medical problems can simply be eliminated using AM techniques.

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