First printable body parts and now, thanks to recent advancements in 3D printing technology, doctors may soon be able to essentially “draw” cells onto patients that will generate new bone, skin, and even muscle tissues.
The BioPen, a pen-like device that will allow surgeons to apply human cells directly onto the site of injury, uses stem cells and growth factors, and could potentially allow surgeons to heal bone and cartilage.
The BioPen uses technology similar to 3D printing, and works by delivering cell material and growth factors directly onto the site of injury. With the BioPen, surgeons will have a precise level of control over where the materials are placed. A UV light that is attached to the BioPen is used to solidify the new bone or tissue while a surgeon adds new layers, essentially constructing a 3D scaffold onto the injury site on which the cells will be able to multiply, eventually becoming functioning tissue.
This device was developed by researchers at the University of Wollongong (UOW)-headquartered Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES). This prototype was designed and built using UOW’s 3D printer in the labs of the university.
Since the BioPen will allow surgeons to apply cell material directly to the site of injury, this device will be able to shorten surgery time for patients. These cells will also accelerate the regeneration process of bone and cartilage, and will eliminate the need to harvest a patient’s cartilage and grow it for weeks in a lab.
The BioPen prototype is currently being prepared for clinical projects which will take place at the Aikenhead Centre for Medical Discovery in Melbourne.