Apr 20, 2018 | By David

Researchers at Australia’s Swinburne University will soon be taking advantage of the possibilities of 3D bio-printing with a cutting-edge new Biopen device. They are assisting in development of a small handheld 3D printer that can be used by surgeons to efficiently regrow important tissue like bone and cartilage in patients, using stem cells. Swinburne's latest project is known as BioSphere, named after the beads that have been developed to more efficiently grow the necessary stem cells. Like a similar 3D bio-printing project being carried out at Griffith University, which we reported on recently, it will be funded by the Australian government's BioMedTech Horizons program.

Many bio-printing projects make use of stem cells. These cells can be extracted from individual patients, and then grown in a lab into the specific tissue that is needed to repair their body. Because they contain the patient’s DNA, they will be perfectly compatible with the surrounding healthy tissue in the areas that they are implanted. This leads to much quicker and more efficient healing, and improves the prognosis for a whole range of injuries and illnesses.

What is particularly promising about the new BioSphere research is the innovative way that it presents to grow stem cells. Bio-printing research wasn’t progressing as fast as predicted due to the lack of means to generate the huge number of cells that are necessary for successful treatments. Researchers also lacked methods by which to recover the cells from the dishes that they were being grown on without damaging them.

The Swinburne researchers' approach will be to use thousands of tiny polymer beads to grow the cells on, instead of a dish. These are what give the BioSphere project its name. The beads are each around 0.3mm (0.01 inches) in diameter, and many thousands of them together will offer a hugely increased surface area on which to grow cells. Not only will it be possible to grow more cells faster, they will also be less likely to get damaged in the process of removal, as the researchers will be implementing a new light-based technique to detach them from the beads.

According to project supervisor Dr Nicholas Reynolds, ''The surface of the beads will be coated with light-sensitive nanoparticles that do not affect the cells’ growth until the particles are activated with an infra-red beam. At this point the activated nanoparticles cause the cells to gently detach from the beads, and can be easily recovered for re-implantation into the injured patient.''

As we reported before, the handheld 3D printing device, or 'Biopen', will contain special bio-ink infused with the necessary cells. Surgeons will be able to use it to ‘draw’ new tissue in the areas where it is needed.

(all images, source: Swinburne)

The BioSphere research is part of PhD student Yashaswini Vegi’s project, within the ARC Training Centre for Biodevices at Swinburne, in partnership with St. Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne. It is one of 11 different projects that are being funded by the AU$35 million BioMedTech Horizons program, which is focused on developing innovation and expertise in Australia’s bio-technology sector. It is intended to stimulate collaboration across disciplines, between the research, industry, and technology sectors, to maximize entrepreneurship and the potential of new ideas.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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