3-D printed tubes make 'assembly line' of nanoparticles for lower-cost drug delivery

Nanoparticles drop from a 3-D printed microfluidic channel at 250 micrometers in diameter--Courtesy of USC

Nanotechnology, while still largely in preclinical stages for drug delivery, is thought to be on the cutting edge of the field as a means to develop highly specific, targeted and unobtrusive treatments. And as the research inches closer to commercialization, the manufacture of such particles will present a bottleneck for companies looking to make a dent if upscaling processes aren't already in place.

Researchers at the University of Southern California have developed a method to more fully automate the process of manufacturing nanoparticles. Currently, the process is mostly undertaken in smaller batches in a specialized lab, making the resulting particles thousands of times more expensive. For example, compared to pure, raw gold at about $50 per gram, gold nanoparticles cost around $80,000 per gram.

The USC team is now using microfluidics to make nanoparticles on a much larger scale. And with 3-D printed tubes that can manipulate droplets at 250 micrometers in diameter, they can produce the particles on a sort of assembly line. These are thought to be the smallest 3-D printed tubes in existence, according to the university.

Each tube can make millions of identical droplets, and unlike previous incarnations of a similar system, the pressure of each tube doesn't adversely affect that of its neighbors. In older systems, this was a fragile structure that could knock out the entire system with just a small change. But the USC team constructed theirs in a way that the junctions between tubes creates a uniform droplet and won't be affected by pressure changes.

They write in their study published in Nature Communications: "We apply this device in a parallel network to synthesize platinum nanoparticles using an ionic liquid solvent, demonstrate reproducible synthesis after recycling the ionic liquid, and double the reaction yield compared with an analogous batch synthesis."

- here's the USC release
- and here's the abstract

Suggested Articles

The new digital Abilify is a breakthrough for Proteus Digital Health and its patient-tracking products, but not so much for Abilify's maker, Otsuka.

Adamis Pharmaceuticals' EpiPen contender Symjepi, which was rejected last year before the EpiPen havoc, won approval from the FDA.

Researchers in the U.K. have developed a technique to better predict results in liver cancer when drug-laden polymer beads are used to deliver medicines.