3D printer used to synthesize drugs paves way for on-demand medicine

The idea of printing a 3D object was utterly bizarre many years ago when the idea first became popularized. Now that the technology has become commonly available, printing a small item like a statue or DIY gadget shell isn't unusual. However, the technology holds promise for applications beyond that, ones that sound almost magical: printing organs ("bioprinting"), for example, or synthesizing on-demand pharmaceutical drugs.

University of Glasgow chemist Leroy Cronin and colleagues have worked on creating a way to essentially print pharmaceutical drugs, according to ScienceMag. Using what are described as widely available simple starting compounds, the researchers were able to successfully create baclofen, a muscle relaxer, and some other drugs including a medication for acid reflux.

The technology holds promise for on-demand pharmaceutical creation, making it possible to, for example, print a rarely needed medication that may not be in commercial production. The technology could also be used in remote areas where access to a wide variety of medications isn't available.

It is suggested that the technology could even be deployed on space missions to provide astronauts with on-demand medication created as the need arises. Talking about the development, Cronin said, "This approach will allow the on-demand production of chemicals and drugs that are in short supply, hard to make at big facilities, and allow customization to tailor them to the application."

Notably, the technology is accessible to nonspecialists, and would reduce the large-scale mass production of certain medications down to a small scale, easily acquired system. In addition to the aforementioned scenarios, a system like this could be used in regions to produce drugs needed to deal with an outbreak versus waiting for drug shipments to arrive from elsewhere.

SOURCE: ScienceMag