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BioPen applies additive manufacturing to bone repair surgery

A handheld pen-like device may one day allow surgeons to draw cells that will ultimately become functioning bone or cartilage directly onto a surgery site. By delivering live cells and growth factors to the site of an injury, surgery time is reduced and tissue regeneration is accelerated.

PlasticsToday Staff

January 16, 2014

1 Min Read
BioPen applies additive manufacturing to bone repair surgery

A handheld pen-like device may one day allow surgeons to draw cells that will ultimately become functioning bone or cartilage directly onto a surgery site. By delivering live cells and growth factors to the site of an injury, surgery time is reduced and tissue regeneration is accelerated.

Biopen-bone-shot-300.jpgDeveloped by researchers from the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) at the University of Wollongong in New South Wales, Australia, the BioPen works in a manner similar to 3D printing. Cellular material encased inside a biopolymer, such as alginate, which is protected by an outer gel coating, is extruded, layer by layer, onto the wound site. A low-powered ultraviolet lamp attached to the device hardens the ink as it is dispensed, protecting the embedded cells as a 3D scaffold is constructed. The repetitive process allows the entire implant to be built in real time. The cells drawn onto the surgery site multiply and differentiate into nerve, muscle, or bone cells.

The BioPen prototype was designed and built using the university's 3D printing equipment.

The device is now with clinical partners at Saint Vincent's Hospital Melbourne, who are working on optimizing cellular materials for use in clinical trials.

"The combination of materials science and next-generation fabrication technology is creating opportunities that can only be executed through effective collaborations such as this," said ACES Director Professor Gordon Wallace in a prepared statement. "What's more, advances in 3D printing are enabling further hardware innovations in a rapid manner."

The video below shows the BioPen prototype in action.

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