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This 3D printing 'BioPen' lets doctors 'draw' cartilage implants during surgery

By Shawn Knight
Apr 4, 2016
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  1. Collaboration between researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) and orthopedic surgeons at St Vince’s Hospital in Melbourne has resulted in a 3D printing pen capable of creating custom cartilage implants on-the-fly.

    The handheld biofabrication tool, known as the BioPen, secretes a gelatin–methacrylamide/hyaluronic acid–methacrylate (GelMa/HAMa) hydrogel loaded with human stem cells under a UV light (to solidify the ink). The idea is that a surgeon could repair damaged cartilage mid-surgery on a case-by-case basis by sculpting custom implants.

    Science Daily describes it as a “landmark” proof-of-concept experiment. As the publication points out, surgeons don’t know the exact geometry of an implant prior to surgery which makes it extremely difficult to pre-prepare a traditional artificial cartilage implant.

    In vitro testing demonstrated an impressive cell survival rate of 97 percent just one week later.

    Professor Peter Choong, Director of Orthopaedics at St Vincent's Hospital Melbourne and co-creator of the device, said 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.

    Co-developer and ACES Director Professor Gordon Wallace, said the BioPen project highlights both the challenges and exciting opportunities in multidisciplinary research. When they get it right, he added, they’ll be able to make extraordinary progress at a rapid rate.

    Ironically enough, the team created the tool using 3D printed medical-grade plastic and titanium. The instrument is described as being lightweight, ergonomic and perhaps most important of all, sterilisable.

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  2. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,518   +506

    Bicentennial man here we go! awesome btw.
     
  3. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 1,682   +788

    So, are we seeing a similar product to that TV glue that is cured with ultraviolet light? With UV light, isn't there going to be a significant risk of harm to unshielded cells?
     
  4. agb81

    agb81 TS Booster Posts: 77   +38

    That's precisely what I was thinking about.

    Maybe the material is good enough to absorb most of the UV light and transform it into heat so it doesn't damage the cells directly.
     
  5. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,518   +506

    If you scour through the links, you will get to the paper published and you can take a look at all those tasty details.
     
  6. Godel

    Godel TS Rookie Posts: 22

    If we still have a 97% cell survival rate after a week, then the answer is obviously not.
     
  7. Hadakajime

    Hadakajime TS Rookie

    "Ironically enough, the team created the tool using 3D printed medical-grade plastic and titanium."

    How does this qualify as irony??! Ironic the tool was also created via 3d fabrication?

    Ever heard of "coincidence"?
     
  8. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 1,682   +788

    Not obvious .... the long term effects are yet to be measured. I'm all for it if it works, but I shutter when I remember the first "medical breakthroughs" that came out of gene therapy ......
     

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