Vitamin B2 used to 3D print medical implants

A new 3D printing technique has been discovered in the US that could pave the way towards non-toxic, custom biomedical implants.

Researchers from North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Laser Zentrum Hannover used a naturally-occurring compound called riboflavin - also known as vitamin B2 - to create scaffolds for medical implants out of non-toxic polymers.

"This opens the door to a much wider range of biocompatible implant materials, which can be used to develop customised implant designs using 3D printing technology," said NC State researcher Dr Roger Narayan.

The researchers focused on a 3D printing technique called two-photon polymerisation, which enables the creation of 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 3D objects.

Two-photon polymerisation 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.

Dr Narayan found, however, that riboflavin can be mixed with a precursor material to make it photoreactive. The compound, which can be found in everything from asparagus to cottage cheese, is also non-toxic and biocompatible.

Laura Hopperton

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