We had already talked about devices like 3Doodler who put 3D printing literally in the hands of consumers. is the time, now, of a device for “most experienced hands”: those of the surgeons.
It’s called BioPen and has been designed and developed at the University of Wollongong (UOW) in Australia. This tool is designed to allow surgeons to “draw” live cells and growth factors directly on the site of an injury in order to help speed up the regeneration of bone or cartilage.
Instead of plastic filaments, BioPen extrudes the cellular material within a biopolymer (eg alginate) which is in turn enclosed in an outer layer of gel material. Both layers, external and internal, are combined inside the head of the pen. The surgeon’s task will be to “draw” directly on the affected part, filling, for example, a section of damaged bone.
As soon as the material is ejected from the pen, thanks to the action of a source of ultraviolet light at low power fixed on BioPen, it is solidified. This allows the doctor to create a 3D scaffold layer by layer.
Once positioned within the wound, the cells differentiate into nerve, muscle or bone to form functional tissue. But the device is not only thought to cells, is in fact conceived also for the initialization of growth factors or other types of medication. The researchers argue that the BioPen bring advantages in operating rooms and for its accuracy and for ease of transport.
“This type of treatment may be suitable for the repair of bones severely damaged and for the recovery of cartilage, for example, in the case of sports injuries or in case of road accidents,” says Professor Choong. “The research team of Professor Wallace combining stem cell science and polymer chemistry to help surgeons in the design and customization of solutions for bone reconstruction in real time.”
The team distributed the pen to the doctors of the St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne, led by Professor Peter Choong, who will work to perfect the cellular material for use in clinical trials.
Header image credits: designboom.com