Scientists utilize 4D printing technology to create customized “smart implants” for the treatment of breast cancer.

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Exciting news! Nominations are now open for the highly anticipated 3D Printing Industry Awards 2023. This prestigious event honors the leaders in the field of 3D printing and will take place on November 30th in London. With twenty categories to acknowledge excellence, this event is not to be missed.

In other groundbreaking news, researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have made a remarkable breakthrough in the treatment of breast cancer. For the first time ever, they have developed personalized 4D printed implants specifically designed to manage and treat breast cancer.

Let’s delve into the world of 4D printing. Unlike traditional 3D printing, 4D printing involves the use of “smart materials” that can change their characteristics and shape in response to external stimuli. This technology allows for dynamic and programmable objects to be created. In this case, the research team at Queen’s University Belfast utilized 4D printing to produce breast implants that can change size and shape to better fit into a patient’s tissue cavity.

These innovative implants not only provide greater personalization and improved aesthetic outcomes for patients, but they also have the ability to release chemotherapy drugs precisely where they are needed. This targeted drug delivery system helps protect patients from the return of cancer cells in the affected area.

Professor Dimitrios Lamprou, the lead on this project and Chair of Biofabrication and Advanced Manufacturing from the School of Pharmacy at Queen’s University Belfast, explains the significance of this development. He states, “By making these 4D printed implants, we can cover the breast cavity after surgery with an implant that mimics the elasticity of the breast, while also releasing a chemotherapeutic drug. This combination provides better management of breast cancer and helps prevent the return of the tumor.”

The research paper detailing this groundbreaking work has been published in the journal Science Direct, further solidifying its significance in the medical community.

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer globally, with millions of cases being diagnosed each year. Current treatment methods, such as breast-conserving surgery, can result in local cancer recurrence and breast tissue loss. Additionally, the use of radiotherapy and systemic therapy can lead to longer treatment durations and unpleasant side effects. The research team at Queen’s University Belfast aimed to provide a patient-centered alternative.

The use of additive manufacturing, specifically 4D printing, presents an opportunity to improve the management of breast cancer through the development of these “smart implants.” By leveraging advanced 3D CAD design tools and a bioprinter, the team manufactured implants using a blend of carboxymethyl cellulose sodium salt (CMC) and cellulose nanocrystals (CNC). These implants were loaded with doxorubicin (DOX), a common chemotherapeutic drug, allowing for targeted and concentrated delivery to reduce the likelihood of cancer recurrence.

Dr. Niamh Buckley, a Reader from the School of Pharmacy and responsible for the in vitro evaluation of the implants, highlights the significance of this technology in improving treatment outcomes. She explains, “Chemotherapy plays a crucial role in the treatment of breast cancer, but it is associated with harsh side effects. The use of technology such as this, which allows a concentrated delivery of the drug just to where it is needed, can help make treatment more effective and kinder.”

Furthermore, the implants can be customized based on the patient’s needs using imaging scans such as MRI or CAT scans. Once implanted, the 4D printed implants respond to the patient’s interstitial fluids, adapting their size and shape to provide a personalized fit.

These 4D printed breast implants are not only groundbreaking in their functionality, but they are also cost-effective and easy to manufacture. This means that they can be readily prepared in hospitals, offering direct and personalized treatment options while reducing costs.

The intersection of 3D bioprinting and cancer treatment holds incredible promise for the future. This development at Queen’s University Belfast demonstrates the potential of additive manufacturing technologies in revolutionizing healthcare. By providing personalized solutions and targeted drug delivery, scientists are making strides in improving the lives of breast cancer patients.

As we eagerly await the winners of the 3D Printing Industry Awards 2023, let us also celebrate the tremendous progress being made in the field of 4D printing and its application in the fight against breast cancer.

***Advancements in Additive Manufacturing for Cancer Treatment***

The field of additive manufacturing, commonly known as 3D printing, has been proving itself to be a valuable tool in the medical industry. Recent research reflects a growing trend of employing this technology to aid cancer patients, both during and after treatment.

One groundbreaking development comes from researchers at Laval University in Canada, who have successfully created a novel 3D printed hydrogel for the treatment of cervical cancer. This hydrogel, composed of a thermosensitive polymer mixed with gold nanoparticles, can be locally applied to the vagina, allowing it to directly deliver drugs to the cervix of female cancer patients. The significance of this innovation lies in its potential for personalized treatment. With further research and development, scan data could be used to tailor the hydrogel to the anatomies of specific patients, enhancing its effectiveness.

In addition to this, leading US-based additive manufacturing company 3D Systems has recently announced plans for a Regenerative Tissue Program (RPT) aimed at developing and commercializing bioprinted human tissue. The first RPT product under development focuses on patient-specific regenerative breast tissue (RBT), addressing the growing demand for post-breast cancer regenerative breast reconstruction. By combining 3D modeling and bioprinting with their Virtual Surgical Planning (VSP) system, 3D Systems can design and produce bio-integrative scaffolds that perfectly match the patient’s anatomy and physiology.

These advancements in additive manufacturing offer promising possibilities for cancer treatment. The ability to personalize treatment through 3D printing opens up new avenues for improved patient care and outcomes. By leveraging this technology, medical professionals can provide customized solutions that align with the individual needs of each patient.

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Image Source: Queen’s University Belfast via 3D Printing Industry

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