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Scientists Design 3D-Printed Pills For Personalized Medicine: How It Works

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Do you often find it difficult to remember when to take your pills? Or do you have to take too many of them in one go?

A breakthrough invention designed by a team of engineers in Singapore may be the solution: each medication can be adjusted to suit every patient's personalized needs.

This revolutionary invention is in the form of 3D-printed tablets developed by scientists from the National University of Singapore (NUS). Their goal is to make personalized medicine easier to take and friendlier to your wallet.

How Customized Pills Work

Taking and releasing drugs at the right time is crucial to attain optimal therapeutic effects for the body.

Although there are tablet-production methods that allow flexibility in taking medications, most of them have limitations, such as the following: low dosage, non-continuous release of drugs in the body, drugs released in large bursts or poor durability of tablets.

Now, thanks to a novel method of tablet fabrication, NUS researchers Soh Siow Ling and Sun Yajuan created pills that release drugs at various specific profiles.

Soh says the new fabrication method is simple, versatile and inexpensive, and it could be applied in either individualized settings or mass settings.

"This new tablet fabrication method is a game changer," says Soh.

Instead of being manufactured layer by layer, the customizable tablet is made up of three separate components, containing a polymer that holds the drug in a specially designed shape.

The polymer determines the rate of the drug release. Scientists say that by adjusting the shape, the drugs can be released at any rate.

NUS scientists created a computer software to help doctors draw the desired release profile and generate a template for tablets that matches a patient's treatment. The template is then used to produce the pills using a 3D printer.

The system is convenient, as it does not involve complex mathematical equations whenever a new release profile is needed.

Drug Release Profiles

A common and constant type of drug release profile is when it is released at the same rate for a specific period of time. However, hormones and other chemicals may be required to be released in pulses at regular intervals that are in sync with the cycles of the body.

In some circumstances, a large dose is needed initially to act against targets and then release gradually for lower levels to maintain health. For this situation, a decreasing profile is appropriate.

With the help of 3D-printed pills, drug release profiles could range from a myriad of pills in just one tablet: one tablet for one pill that releases the drug at specific intervals during the day and any other tablets made on the spot to address the patients' needs.

During common types of delivery, it is important to take more than one type of drug. But with the new method developed by Soh, the tablet can be modified to include multiple types of drugs and customized to release at different rates.

Meanwhile, the NUS team is also doing further research exploring different combinations of materials for various polymer-based components to cater to a wide range of drugs. They also want to boost the efficacy of the method against illnesses.

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