Bio Pen Uses 3D Printing Technology to Repair Injuries
The device could be seeded with drugs to assist regrowth and recovery, while the hand-held design allows for precision and ease of transportation.Surgeons might soon be able to design customized implants on-site and at the time of surgery, thanks to a handheld "bio pen" developed in the labs of the University of Wollongong (UOW), which works similar to 3D printing methods. The pen delivers cell material inside a biopolymer such as alginate, a seaweed extract, protected by a second, outer layer of gel material. The two layers of gel are combined in the pen head as it is extruded onto the bone surface and the surgeon "draws" with the ink to fill in the damaged bone section. Developed by researchers from the UOW-headquartered Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES), the device could give surgeons greater control over where the materials are deposited while also reducing the time the patient is in surgery by delivering live cells and growth factors directly to the site of injury, accelerating the regeneration of functional bone and cartilage. The BioPen will help build on recent work by ACES researchers where they were able to grow new knee cartilage from stem cells on 3D-printed scaffolds to treat cancers, osteoarthritis and traumatic injury.
A low powered ultraviolet light source is fixed to the device that solidifies the inks during dispensing, providing protection for the embedded cells while they are built up layer-by-layer to construct a 3D scaffold in the wound site.