Researchers from North Carolina State Univ., the Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Laser Zentrum Hannover have discovered that a naturally occurring compound can be incorporated into 3-D printing processes to create medical implants out of non-toxic polymers. The compound is riboflavin, which is better known as vitamin B2.
“This opens the door to a much wider range of biocompatible implant materials, which can be used to develop customized implant designs using 3-D printing technology,” says Dr. Roger Narayan, senior author of a paper describing the work and a prof. in the joint Biomedical Engineering Dept. at NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill.
The researchers in this study focused on a 3-D printing technique called two-photon polymerization, because this technique can be used to create small objects with detailed features—such as scaffolds for tissue engineering, microneedles or other implantable drug delivery devices.
Two-photon polymerization is a 3-D printing technique for making small-scale solid structures from many types of photoreactive liquid precursors. The liquid precursors contain chemicals that react to light, turning the liquid into a solid polymer. By exposing the liquid precursor to targeted amounts of light, the technique allows users to “print” 3-D objects.
Two-photon polymerization has its drawbacks, however. Most chemicals mixed into the precursors to make them photoreactive are also toxic, which could be problematic if the structures are used in a medical implant or are in direct contact with the body.
But now researchers have determined that riboflavin can be mixed with a precursor material to make it photoreactive. And riboflavin is both nontoxic and biocompatible—it’s a vitamin found in everything from asparagus to cottage cheese.
A paper on the research appears online in Regenerative Medicine.
Source: North Carolina State Univ.