A group of researchers tested a 3D printer to manually sculpt free-shape patterns with human stem cells, which showed survival rates of 97%. The device, that resembles a pen, allows sculpting bespoke cartilage implants during a surgery.
Nowadays, 3D bioprinters can be used to print cells layer by layer, in order to build tissues for implantation. However, it is not possible to know the exact geometry of a cartilage that needs to be repaired before the surgery. Therefore, preparing the artificial implant with anticipation is extremely difficult.
The handheld 3D printer, jointly designed by orthopaedic surgeons at St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES), uses a hydrogel bio-ink that carries and supports living human stem cells. It also includes a low powered light source that serves to solidify the ink, according with the report published in the journal Biofabrication.
Because the device is handheld like a pen, it allows the surgeon an extraordinary control when filling cartilage defects with the bio-ink. The biopen, fabricated using 3D printed medical grade plastic and titanium, was designed having the normal practical constraints of this type of surgery in mind. For this reason, it is sterilisable, ergonomic, small and lightweight.
“The development of this type of technology is only possible with interactions between scientists and clinicians, clinicians to identify the problem and scientists to develop a solution,” said Professor Peter Choong, Director of Orthopaedics at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, who developed the concept with ACES Director Professor Gordon Wallace.
“The biopen project highlights both the challenges and exciting opportunities in multidisciplinary research. When we get it right we can make extraordinary progress at a rapid rate,” Professor Wallace said.
Source: ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science