Photocurable Bioinks and 3D-Printed Hydrophilic Drugs


Caleb 3D Pharming
Photocurable bioinks can be used for the inkjet printing of pharmaceutical tablets.

By Caleb Sooknanan ’20

Pharmaceutical dosages are often defined as the amount of active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) that has a therapeutic effect in the most patients. Using such a generalized method does not account for variations in patient genomic and pathophysiological status, leading to potential negative side-effects. Personalized medicine intends to provide patients with more individualized API concentrations in their prescriptions. However, changes in pharmaceuticals tablet manufacturing methods are needed to achieve such control over API dosages.

3D pharming, the direct printing of pharmaceutical tablets, can address this problem by rapidly producing solid-form drugs with custom dosages. Giovanny F. Acosta-Vélez and other researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles recently designed a photocurable bioink for the inkjet printing of pharmaceutical tablets with a hydrophilic API. The bioink would have biomimetic properties to support the adhesion, proliferation, and differentiation of mammalian cells.

The researchers used hyaluronic acid — a polysaccharide often found in connective, neural, and epithelial tissue — as the basis for the photocurable hydrogel precursor solution. The resulting polymer solution was then distributed into blank preform tablets and exposed to visible light to facilitate rapid polymerization. The researchers then evaluated the rapid release of the hydrophilic API from the tablet. In the study, a Ropinirole HCL dose of 5.7 mg was dispensed into a blank preform tablet with a 92.87% ± 4.08% accuracy. 60% of the Ropinirole HCL was released within the first 15 minutes of dissolution and over 80% was released in 30 minutes, thereby indicating the possibility of fast therapeutic effects.

The experiment showed inkjet printing as a viable option for 3D pharming hydrophilic APIs. The results also indicate that the bioink could be used in Polyjet 3D Printing, where the liquid is dispensed under constant light exposure to create solids. However, further study is needed to strengthen the bioink, incorporate large drug dosages, and expand its applications to other printing devices.



  1. Acosta-Vélez, et al., Photocurable Bioink for the Inkjet 3D Pharming of Hydrophilic Drugs, Bioengineering 4, 11 (2017). doi: 10.3390/bioengineering4010011

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