And the same compound can also be used to head off a brutal hangover.
The compound Narayan is using? Riboflavin, more commonly referred to as vitamin B2.
Riboflavin is a colored micro-nutrient key to human and animal health. It is required by a vast array of of cellular processes and operates in a key role in metabolizing fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.
"This opens the door to a much wider range of bio-compatible implant materials which can be used to develop customized implant designs using 3D printing technology," said Narayan.
Narayan is the senior author of a paper which focuses on a 3D printing process called "two-photon polymerization." The technique is used to create tiny objects with finely-detailed features like "scaffolds" for tissue engineering or "microneedles."
Two-photon polymerization is used, in this case, to make solid structures from a variety of photo-reactive liquid precursors. The liquids contain chemicals which, when they react with light, turn the liquids into a solid polymer. As the precursors are exposed to targeted levels of light, the process allows researchers to make 3D objects.
But before Narayan and his team undertook their novel research, there was a bit of a problem using the output in medical implants.
Since most chemicals mixed into the precursors to make them photo-reactive also happen to be toxic, that precluded them from use in medical applications. Narayan and his team now say using riboflavin mixed with the precursor materials will make them nontoxic – and thus bio-compatible.
Narayan's paper, published online in Regenerative Medicine, is also the work of lead author Alexander Nguyen, a PhD student at NC State, and co-authors Shaun Gittard, Anastasia Koroleva, Sabrina Schlie, Arune Gaidukeviciute and Boris Chichkov.
The work was supported with funding from Laser Zentrum Hannover and a National Science Foundation grant.