3D Bioprinting Pen Allows For Customised Cartilage Repair

3D Bioprinting Pen Allows For Customised Cartilage Repair

With all it’s potential uses, it’s hard to keep up with 3D bioprinting technology. It wasn’t very long ago that the ability to 3D print viable human tissue, seemed like a futuristic dream. Now, it's advancing at an incredible rate.

There are many research institutions and medical device companies vying in this space, each with their own variation on the technology. While the vast majority of human tissue developed thus far remains confined to pharmaceutical testing and further study, these entities are rapidly advancing to being able to implant 3D printed tissue into the human body. One such 3D printing technology is the BioPen.

The BioPen arose out of a collaboration between researchers at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) and orthopedic surgeons at St. Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne. This device allows surgeons to repair damaged cartilage by “drawing” new cells directly onto bone during a surgical procedure.

The pen is loaded with a 'bio-ink' comprised of stem cells inside a biopolymer such as alginate (a seaweed extract), protected by a layer of hydrogel. The ink is extruded onto the bone surface and then solidified by a UV light embedded in the pen. Once they are drawn onto the bone, the patient derived stem cells will multiply inside the cartilage defect and eventually differentiate themselves into cartilage tissue.

The technique could revolutionize how surgeons repair cartilage. For certain types of injuries, it’s difficult for surgeons to discern the exact shape of the area requiring an implant, making it extremely difficult to design an artificial cartilage implant before surgery. With the BioPen, surgeons could simply fill in the damaged area with the bio-ink to provide a customised cartilage repair solution.

This type of treatment may soon allow surgeons to better repair acutely damaged cartilage, using the science of stem cells and polymer chemistry to personalize solutions for reconstructing joint defects in real time.

To see the BioPen in action, here's a short video below: 

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