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Fighting HIV with nanomedicine and 3D printing

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

WIN member Emmanuel Ho, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo School of Pharmacy and an international expert in nanomedicine, is developing a 3D-printed intra-vaginal ring (IVR) that would provide highly precise doses of medication to protect women from getting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS and kills one million people globally each year, according to UNAIDS.
dr ho“Why take [the drugs] orally where they can go everywhere in the body, if we can actually stop HIV at the site of transmission?We can potentially deliver a product that is more effective, and we can also reduce [the drug’s] side effects,” says Ho.
The IVR is made of medical-grade plastic with hollow tubing and tiny pores. Medicine is loaded into the ring, which is then placed in the vagina, where it slowly releases the drugs to be absorbed by the body.
Ho is currently testing the delivery of a combination of anti-HIV and anti-inflammatory medications delivered through the IVR. According to Ho’s collaborator Keith Fowke, professor and head of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases at the University of Manitoba, inflammation in the vagina increases one’s risk of acquiring HIV, because inflammation draws the immune cells that are infected by the virus. Releasing anti-inflammation medication directly could mitigate this risk.
“If a woman has high levels of inflammation in the genital tract, then the probability of HIV infection is much higher,” says Fowke.
The IVR could be adapted to deliver a variety of medications, including hormonal contraceptives. Ho says that while rings of similar shape and design, such as the NuvaRing, have already been approved for birth control and hormone replacement therapy, developing a 3D-printed model will allow for more precise design and drug delivery.
Another benefit of 3D printing is cost reduction, Ho notes. With conventional “hotmelt” injection molding, polymers are poured into an aluminum mold, creating “dead spaces” in the mold where material could get stuck and be wasted. With 3D printing, that kind of waste is eliminated.
dr ho with his ring3D printing’s ability to achieve very complex geometries makes it optimal for projects like Ho’s IVR, says Conner Janeteas, medical applications specialist at Cimetrix Solutions. In his work at the division of Oakville, Ontario-based Javelin Technologies, a leading 3D design engineering and solutions provider across Canada, Janeteas consults with hospitals, universities and research organizations about medical applications of 3D printing. He’s excited about the technology’s potential to revolutionize processes like drug delivery.
“With 3D printing … you don't have those design compromises that you would normally,” says Janeteas. “You can just design for optimal outcome and rely on the technology to help make that feasible. The potential impact on the medical community [would be] astronomical,” he says. “There are many ways that this technology could be used to improve patient outcomes right now.”

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