PET/CT imaging of 3D printed devices in the gastrointestinal tract of rodents

Alvaro Goyanes, Anxo Fernández-Ferreiro, Adil Majeed, Noemí Gomez-Lado, Atheer Awad, Andrea Luaces-Rodríguez, Simon Gaisford, Pablo Aguiar, Abdul W. Basit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Citations (Scopus)


Fused deposition modelling (FDM) 3D printing (3DP) is a revolutionary technology with the potential to transform drug product design in both the pre-clinical and clinical arena. The objective of this pilot study was to explore the intestinal behaviour of four different polymer-based devices fabricated using FDM 3DP technology in rats. Small capsular devices of 8.6 mm in length and 2.65 mm in diameter were printed from polyvinyl alcohol-polyethylene glycol graft-copolymer (PVA-PEG copolymer, Kollicoat IR), hydroxypropylcellulose (HPC, Klucel), ethylcellulose (EC, Aqualon N7) and hypromellose acetate succinate (HPMCAS, Aquasolve-LG). A smaller sized device, 3.2 mm in length and 2.65 mm in diameter, was also prepared with HPMCAS to evaluate the cut off size of gastric emptying of solid formulations in rats. The devices were radiolabelled with Fluorodeoxyglucose (18F-FDG) and small animal positron emission tomography/computed tomography (microPET/CT) was used to track the movement and disintegration of the fabricated devices in the rats. The PVA-PEG copolymer and HPC devices disintegrated after 60min following oral administration. The EC structures did not disintegrate in the gastrointestinal tracts of the rats, whereas the HPMCAS-based systems disintegrated after 420 min. Interestingly, it was noted that the devices which remained intact over the course of the study had not emptied from the stomach of the rats. This was also the case with the smaller sized device. In summary, we report for the first time, the use of a microPET/CT imaging technique to evaluate the in vivo behaviour of 3D printed formulations. The manipulation of the 3D printed device design could be used to fabricate dosage forms of varying sizes and geometries with better gastric emptying characteristics suitable for rodent administration. The increased understanding of the capabilities of 3DP in dosage form design could, henceforth, accelerate pre-clinical testing of new drug candidates in animal models.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158-164
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Pharmaceutics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2018


  • Additive manufacturing
  • Computed tomography
  • Fused deposition modeling
  • Positron emission tomography
  • Printlets
  • Three dimensional printing


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