Scientists are using 4D printing technology to create personalized “smart implants” for the treatment of breast cancer

Scientists from Queen’s University in Belfast have developed personalized implants for the treatment of breast cancer, which are created using 4D printing technology. Using the popular 3D design program Tinkercad and the Cellink Bio X bioprinter, the research team produced breast implants from a mixture of sodium carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) and cellulose nanocrystals (CNC). The implants were also filled with doxorubicin (DOX), a common chemotherapy drug, which can then be administered in a concentrated and targeted manner to reduce the likelihood of the cancer returning.

4D printing is a concept where a fourth dimension in the form of time is added to traditional 3D printing – creating shapes in the XYZ axes. 4D printing uses materials that respond to external factors, such as temperature, light, humidity, pH change or pressure, thanks to which the objects created in this way can change shape or acquire new properties.

Using this technology, the research team produced multi-functional breast implants that can be programmed to change size to better fit the patient’s tissue cavity. This allows for greater personalization and better aesthetic results. Moreover, these types of implants can also release chemotherapy drugs exactly where they are needed, protecting the patient from returning cancer cells to the affected area.

According to Professor Dimitrios Lamprou, project leader and head of the department of biofabrication and advanced manufacturing at the Faculty of Pharmacy at Queen’s University in Belfast, by creating implants using 4D printing technology, the breast cavity after surgery can be covered with an implant that imitates the elasticity of the breast. It also provides better treatment for breast cancer by releasing a chemotherapy drug that will prevent the cancer from going into remission.

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in the world. It affects more than 2.3 million women each year, and approximately 30% of those affected die from the disease. The basic strategy for treating this type of cancer is the so-called sparing surgery. Unfortunately, this is often associated with local cancer recurrence and loss of breast tissue. Additionally, the use of radiotherapy and systemic therapy, while increasing the patient’s chances of survival, results in longer treatment times and unpleasant side effects. A team from Queen’s University claims to have developed an attractive alternative to these methods.


Scientists say 4D printing offers an opportunity to improve breast cancer treatment by developing “smart implants.” They also noted that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed axial tomography (CAT) could be used to tailor the implant to the patient’s needs. Moreover, after the smart implant is implanted, it can expand to better fit the patient’s body. This change in size and shape occurs in response to interstitial fluids (fluids that fill the gaps between cells), providing an additional level of adjustment.

Thanks to their small size, these innovative breast implants are also inexpensive and easy to produce. They can be prepared in hospitals for direct and personalized treatment, reducing costs and providing better options for patients.

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