Innovations – the BioPen



Professor Peter Choong demonstrating with a prototype of the Biopen.
Image courtesty of the University of Wollongong.
The BioPen is a handheld device which uses 3D-printing methods to let surgeons 'draw' live cells and growth factors directly onto the site of an injury – to help accelerate the regeneration of functional bone and cartilage. Orthopaedic surgeons have used it in test cases to design customised implants during surgery.

These are supported by the patient’s own live and growing cells to accelerate the regeneration of functional bone and cartilage. The pen delivers cell material inside a biopolymer, protected by a second, outer layer of gel material. The two layers are combined in the pen head as the surgeon ‘draws’ the ink on the damaged bone layer by layer to form a 3D scaffold in the damaged bone.
A low powered ultra-violet light source fixed to the device solidifies the inks to protect the embedded cells during dispensing.

Once in the body, the cells multiply, differentiate into nerve cells, muscle cells or bone cells, and eventually form functioning tissue.

‘This type of treatment may be suitable for repairing acutely damaged bone and cartilage, for example from sporting or motor vehicle injuries’, explains orthopaedic surgeon Professor Peter Choong.
"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."
‘Professor Wallace’s research team at The University of Wollongong brings together the science of stem cells and polymer chemistry to help surgeons design and personalise solutions for reconstructing bone and joint defects in real time.’

Clinical trials of a new BioPen developed at the University of Wollongong are currently being undertaken at St Vincent’s in Melbourne by Professor Choong.

Dr Claudia di Bella, a colleague of Prof Choong's, spoke to The Project about the BioPen