Image: Demonstration of the BioPen.
Original Published Date: 
Thursday, March 24, 2016

Australian researchers have used a handheld 3D printing pen to ‘draw’ human stem cells in freeform patterns with extremely high survival rates. The device, developed through collaboration between the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) and orthopaedic surgeons at St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne, is designed to allow surgeons to sculpt customised cartilage implants during surgery. Using a hydrogel bio-ink to carry and support living human stem cells, and a low powered light source to solidify the ink, the pen delivers a cell survival rate in excess of 97%. 3D bioprinters have the potential to revolutionise tissue engineering—they can be used to print cells, layer-by-layer, to build up artificial tissues for implantation. But in some applications, such as cartilage repair, the exact geometry of an implant cannot be precisely known prior to surgery. This makes it extremely difficult to pre-prepare an artificial cartilage implant. The Biopen special is held in the surgeon’s hands, allowing the surgeon unprecedented control in treating defects by filling them with bespoke scaffolds. “The biopen project highlights both the challenges and exciting opportunities in multidisciplinary research. When we get it right we can make extraordinary progress at a rapid rate,” said ACES Director Professor Gordon Wallace. If the system is commercialised, according to Professor Wallace, it would redesign the clinical sectors and gift doctors a much desired way of handling rotten tissues.

Media issued by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science.

Photo credit: 

Image courtesy:University of Wollongong.