24/7 Customer Service (800) 927-7671

The BioPen: 3D Bioprinting Pen Lets Surgeons Draw New Cells Directly Onto Bone

by • April 3, 2016 • No Comments

bio-penIt is complex to store up with 3D bioprinting innovation. What seemed, not that long ago, like a futuristic dream is now advancing at an amazing speed. Numerous organizations, of corporations to universities, are developing their own variations on the innovation, every slightly various, but all aimed at the same goal – to 3D print viable-bodied human organs. The majority of the cells and tissue created so far remains in the laboratory, utilized for pharmaceutical testing and additional study, but we are getting nearer and nearer to being able-bodied to implant 3D printed tissue into the human body.

Whilst the field may be advancing rapidly, the system of creating 3D printed tissues and cells in the lab is a relatively slow and deliberate one. A man unfamiliar with the innovation may picture doctors pulling out a 3D printing device, turning it on, and – voila! – a 3D printed ear! In reality, 3D printed cells must be carefully cultivated and allowed to grow into viable-bodied tissue in a system that takes days at very least. But a new development by researchers based at Australia’s University of Wollongong may speed that system up – with a tool that, in essence, is a biological 3Doodler.


The BioPen arose out of a collaboration between researchers at the UoW-based Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) and orthopedic surgeons at St. Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne. The device may allow surgeons to repair damaged bone and cartilage by “drawing” new cells directly onto bone in the middle of a surgical procedure. A team led by ACES Director Professor Gordon Wallace created the pen, that was and so transferred to St. Vincent for researchers to work on optimizing it for clinical trials.

142782-1How it works: the pen is loaded with a bio-ink comprised of stem cells within a biopolymer such as alginate, a seaweed extract, that is in turn protected by a 2nd layer of hydrogel. The ink is and so extruded onto the bone surface and solidified by a UV light embedded in the pen. Once they are drawn onto the bone, they can multiply within the patient’s body, variousiating themselves into nerve, muscle and bone cells and some day expanding into tissue.

The technique may revolutionize how surgeons repair cartilage, in particular. For sure types of injuries, it’s complex or not effortless for surgeons to discern the precise shape of the area requiring an implant, building it incredibly complex to create an artificial cartilage implant preceding surgery. With the BioPen, surgeons may just fill in the damaged area with the hydrogel solution.

“This type of treatment may be suitable-bodied for repairing acutely damaged bone and cartilage, for example of sporting or motor vehicle injuries,” said Professor Peter Choong, Director of Orthopaedics at St. Vincent’s. “Professor Wallace’s research team brings together the science of stem cells and polymer chemistry to assist surgeons create and manalise solutions for reconstructing bone and joint defects in real time.”


Professors Choong (L) and Wallace

The cell solution may in addition be additional customized by adding drugs to boost healing and regrowth. The BioPen prototype was 3D printed in medical grade plastic and titanium to be lightweight and effortless to sterilize.

“The combination of materials science and next-generation fabrication innovation is creating opportunities that can just be executed through effective collaborations such as this,” said Professor Wallace. “What’s additional, makes it to in 3D printing are allowing additional complexware innovations in a rapid manner.”

So far, cells generated by the BioPen have shown a survival rate of over 97%. The full research study has not long ago been published in the journal Biofabrication.

Below, Professor Choong demonstrates how the BioPen works. What do you ponder of the innovation? Do you ponder it can catch on with surgeons? Discuss in the 3D Printing BioPen forum over at 3DPB.com.