November 13, 2020 | Featured
FabRx has developed and tested drug-loaded personalised hearing aids. Over 5% of the world’s population and 1/3 of over 65s suffer from disabling hearing loss, requiring regular use of hearing aids. One of the side effects of prolonged use of hearing aids is a higher susceptibility to ear infections. Ear infections can worsen the issues causing hearing loss and in older patients can be a serious health concern. A personalised hearing aid that slowly releases antibiotics to treat or prevent an ear infection is an innovation that could revolutionise the hearing aid and wider medical device markets.
The study was the first of its kind and aimed to show that vat photopolymerization 3D printing can be a viable option for the manufacture of drug-loaded medical devices with anti-bacterial properties. The study was done in collaboration with researchers from University College London School of Pharmacy (UK) and University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain).
Figure 1. The digital design file for a personalised earpiece (top left) and 3D printed earpieces using different resins with different percentages of drugs.
The technology used in the study is known as vat photopolymerization. The process involves a tank of liquid photopolymer containing antibiotics and a light source that shines into the tank. The light source cures the resin, solidifying it layer by layer into a solid 3D object. This process can produce highly detailed constructs, making it the perfect technology for personalised medical devices such as earpieces for hearing aids. Once hardened, the earpiece can be connected to the hearing aid and given to the patient to use. The earpiece slowly releases antibiotics for more than two weeks, killing bacteria that cause ear infections.
Figure 2. A schematic of vat photopolymerization technology
This ground-breaking innovation has the potential to significantly disrupt the personalised medical device and personalised treatment markets. The possibilities for this technology are endless and it is likely that drug-loaded medical devices will become an invaluable tool in medicine.
Background on FabRx
FabRx Ltd was established in 2014 by leading academics from University College London (UCL) and is recognised as a world leader in the application of 3D printing technology for medicines and medical devices. Since its initiation, FabRx has developed over seven different types of pharmaceutical 3D printers and in 2017 were awarded with the TCT Best Start Up Award. In 2019, FabRx conducted a world-first clinical study utilising their Printlets™ technology. In early 2020, following a grant from Innovate UK totalling near £1 million, FabRx launched M3DIMAKER™, the world’s first personalised medicine 3D printer. FabRx’s founders have a wealth of experience in all aspects of oral drug formulation and knowledge of the challenges of bringing new medicines through regulatory processes of the pharmaceutical sector.
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