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Researchers have discovered a way to synthesize medicine using a 3D printer

By Polycount ยท 16 replies
Jan 22, 2018
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  1. If researchers from the University of Glasgow have their way, you may never need to drive to the store to pick up a bottle of Advil again.

    As reported by Science, researchers may have discovered a way to produce medicine via 3D printing. Though this may sound like a borderline insane proposition at first, the research behind it is rooted firmly in reality. By modifying an existing 3D printer to synthesize chemicals, researchers have found that they can create pharmaceuticals and "other chemicals" from simple, "widely available" starting compounds.

    Despite consumer 3D printers being more of an enthusiast's device than a common household object, enough people own them that this technology -- if successful -- could "democratize" chemistry, allowing users to create the medicine they need whenever they need it.

    Dubbed "reactionware" by researcher Leroy Cronin, this sort of tech could be especially useful in impoverished parts of the world where disease runs rampant. Instead of waiting for shipments of medicine from overseas, doctors could produce medicine proactively in response to a given situation -- a disease outbreak, for example.

    The following quote from Science hints at how the process works:

    "...Cronin and his colleagues report printing a series of interconnected reaction vessels that carry out four different chemical reactions involving 12 separate steps, from filtering to evaporating different solutions.

    By adding different reagents and solvents at the right times and in a precise order, they were able to convert simple, widely available starting compounds into a muscle relaxant called baclofen.

    And by designing reactionware to carry out different chemical reactions with different reagents, they produced other medicines, including an anticonvulsant and a drug to fight ulcers and acid reflux."

    All of this sounds fantastic on paper but there are certainly risks, particularly regarding the potential for the fabrication of illegal or dangerous drugs, something researcher Christian Hornung believes is "absolutely" a concern.

    Even if these concerns are mitigated, reactionware will have plenty of regulatory hurdles to overcome before the technology will make it to market. Regardless, the fact that the possibility exists at all is intriguing and it could pave the way to a brighter, less expensive and pharmacy-free future for medicine.

    Permalink to story.

  2. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 4,368   +2,891

    I wonder, if it was before or after they took those as a test...

    Sounds like a drug-induced hoax. One cannot print molecules, which would be needed to replicate a chemical compound.

    But if I'm wrong, we will see any type of matter printed - food, gold, heroin, money. Life will be good, though pointless :)
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2018
    Reehahs and jobeard like this.
  3. stewi0001

    stewi0001 TS Evangelist Posts: 2,138   +1,556

    I think you skipped some or all of the article. ;)
    treetops likes this.
  4. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 4,368   +2,891

    No, I only skipped the part where they partied and went to the moon. Oh wait, it's not there, probably was edited out.
  5. Polycount

    Polycount TS Evangelist Topic Starter Posts: 1,643   +371

    Yeah, sorry about that. My editors didn't feel moon parties were relevant to the topic. ;)
    VitalyT likes this.
  6. Trying to do what an organic chemist does using a box that must be horrendously expensive " interconnected reaction vessels that carry out four different chemical reactions involving 12 separate steps, from filtering to evaporating different solutions".
    Questions I have are, what is the yield (chemicals in vs. product out), where do waste products go. How is it cleaned, or do you get some free baclofen in your anticonvulsant? Many organic synthesis require more or different steps so I assume they are unable to be manufactured by this. How about purity? Pharmaceuticals have to be very pure and free from contamination, especially from reaction by-products.
    Currently this is more of a long shot than new miraculous battery technology and the like
    psycros likes this.
  7. stewi0001

    stewi0001 TS Evangelist Posts: 2,138   +1,556

    I only come here for the moon parties!
  8. Mighty Duck

    Mighty Duck TS Addict Posts: 148   +78

    Can it synthesize Detergent pills? I bet I could sell those.
    psycros likes this.
  9. psycros

    psycros TS Evangelist Posts: 2,625   +2,364

    Primary usage, once perfected, will be to produce counterfeit drugs. Street drugs and explosives will also be popular. You heard it here first.
    DavidBailey likes this.
  10. Polycount

    Polycount TS Evangelist Topic Starter Posts: 1,643   +371

    This is actually pretty likely if this sort of tech hits the market, in my opinion. And it's a pretty scary thought.

    "Alexa, please make me some Tide pod - I mean ORDER... No, please, STOP!"

    I can see it already.
    DavidBailey likes this.
  11. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 2,450   +1,450

    The drugs would have to be simple compounds where the patents have expired - hence the formula is in the public. Tylenol, for example, is simply acetaminophen, which shouldn't be too hard to synthesize (after all, pharmaceutical companies are doing it now for pennies a pound) along with a bunch of other SIMPLE drugs. Those hoping to synthesize heroin are in for a much tougher job - first off, you'd need a bunch of poppies, but it's not like heroin is a simple drug... finding all the ingredients is not exactly easy - there's a reason its street price is crazy high (not that I'd know first hand of course - I stick to weed!).

    I CAN foresee drug companies being the major hurdle for this - they'll use safety as their rationale, but their real reason will be profits. It costs $100 for a bottle of Viagra - if it turns out you could 3D print yourself a bottle for 50 cents, Pfizer would lose billions...
    Reehahs likes this.
  12. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 5,155   +3,578

    Seriously? Do you think the AMA is going to get behind an effort to have that many specialized chemicals in anyone's house?
    senketsu likes this.
  13. A regular person cannot also order lab chemicals to their home. Starting materials for many drugs are on the watch list for home brew illegal drugs and explosives.
  14. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 12,756   +1,490

  15. Star Trek transporter technology would probably work better.
    Remember people making food in a variant of it on the Enterprise ?
    "Computer, I want steak and eggs."
    "Be more specific please."
    "Chicken eggs and beef steak."
    "What breed of chicken and bovine species."
    "Road Island Red chicken and Angus steer."
    "White or brown or single or double yolk eggs ? Steak from which cut of beef ?"
    "Forget it."
    Reehahs and Polycount like this.
  16. Reachable

    Reachable TS Evangelist Posts: 369   +183

    This would be very hard to regulate out of existence because the processes begin with easily available substances that are used for multitudes of purposes. Compounding pharmacies could use this to make generics, presumably reducing uncertainty of safety. Big Pharma won't like this, and that may turn out to be the biggest impediment to its adoption.
  17. So now that's two pills you don't want to take.

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