Dec.7, 2013

A handheld 'bio pen' developed in the labs of the University of Wollongong (UOW) will allow surgeons to repair damaged and diseased bone material by designing customised implants on-site and at the time of surgery.

Researchers from the UOW-headquartered Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) have developed the prototype BioPen that will deliver live cells and growth factors directly on-site, accelerating the regeneration of functional bone and cartilage.

The BioPen works similar to 3D printing methods: It layers 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.

A low powered ultra-violet 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.

The BioPen prototype was designed and built using the 3D printer in the labs at the University of Wollongong. With the right mix of cells, growth factors, doctors could even draw replacement tissue that would eventually grow into functioning nerve or muscle tissue. The composition of the cell-loaded material can be surrounded by a polymer core to add structural strength to the surgical site. It can also be seeded with other drugs to assist regrowth and recovery.

The BioPen was this week handed over researchers at St Vincent's Hospital Melbourne who will work on optimising the cell material for use in clinical trials, for exmaple to grow new knee cartilage from stem cells on 3D-printed scaffolds to treat cancers, osteoarthritis and traumatic injury.

Professor Peter Choong, Director of Orthopaedics at St Vincent's Hospital Melbourne and the Sir Hugh Devine Professor of Surgery, University of Melbourne said:

"This type of treatment may be suitable for repairing acutely damaged bone and cartilage, for example from sporting or motor vehicle injuries. Professor Wallace's research team brings together the science of stem cells and polymer chemistry to help surgeons design and personalise solutions for reconstructing bone and joint defects in real time."

"What's more, advances in 3D printing are enabling further hardware innovations in a rapid manner."


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Alex Madinger wrote at 12/9/2013 2:22:05 PM:

An excellent development! Excited to see it progress through trials.

alvaro wrote at 12/9/2013 2:18:44 PM:

That's amazing!. I think it's possible to use this technology to repair fractured teeth .



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