Putting 3D Printing technology to greater use, scientists at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) have developed the BioPen. The pen follows a process similar to 3D printing to deposit regenerative stem cells onto damaged bone and cartilage.
Working similar to a 3D printing pen, the BioPen deposits materials on to the intended surface. Usually, this happens to be regenerative stem cells packed in biopolymer like seaweed extract that are combined in the nozzle of the pen. An included UV light hardens the gel so more layers can be added as required.
Once the framework is done, the biopolymer eventually dissolves as cells multiply and new tissue appears in the damaged area. Additional changes like another polymer layer to improve strength of the framework, or addition of medicines or drugs to simulate cellular growth can also be added to the pen.
BioPen allows doctors to work with greater control, and gives them the ability to create customized networks where required. As an added benefit, this may this may reduce the time patients spend in surgery. The pen may be especially useful for patients suffering from sports injury or motor vehicle accidents.
Professor Peter Choong, a co-developer of the pen is currently working on refining the cell material to be used in the pen. Once this is done, the pen will be headed towards clinical trial.