Handheld 3D Bio-Pen Could Transform Implants

Researchers have created the first bio-pen, which could allow surgeons to craft bone implants during procedures.

biopen, medicine, surgery, australia, bone, cartilageResearchers at the University of Wollogong in New South Wales, Australia, have created a Bio-Pen that could give surgeons the ability to build custom tailored osteo-implants during surgical procedures.

Using a method dubbed “additive biofabrication,” the new BioPen works by placing live cells and growth factors directly onto chipped, broken or fractured bone and cartilage.

Similar to a 3D printer, the BioPen works by laying a matrix of cellular material onto a damaged section of bone. As a surgeon draws over an area more material can be layered, building an osteo-repair.  To cure the cellular material, researchers use a low power UV-light fixed to the pen itself.

With a working prototype well in hand, University scientists have passed the Bio-Pen over to researchers at Melbourne’s St. Vincent Hospital where further work should strengthen the pen’s abilities. The St. Vincent’s team’s primary responsibility will be to optimize the cell material used by the BioPen in clinical trials at the Aikenhead Center for Medical Discovery (ACES).

According to Peter Choon, Director of Othopedics at St. Vincent’s, “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.”

David Wallace, ACES Director, added to Choon’s statement, “What’s more, advances in 3D printing are enabling further hardware innovations in a rapid manner.” A tip of the hat to 3D printing technology, and a sign of more exciting innovations to come.

Images Courtesy of the University of Wollogong