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The development of the biopen

The biopen, a handheld biofabrication tool, is a new approach which aims to translate freeform biofabrication into the surgical field, while staying true to the practical constraints of the operating theatre.

The biopen enables the deposition of living cells and biomaterials in a manual, direct-write fashion. The device has a number of advantages over robotically manipulated surgical bioprinters:

  • being a manually operated tool, it allows for surgical sculpting of the substitute tissue to achieve the desired structure,

  • increased surgical dexterity allows for deposition within crevices or beneath overhangs in native tissue,

  • as a smaller, less cumbersome device it can be easily brought in/out of the surgical field,

  • it is easier to sterilise and keep sterile and

  • the flexibility of in-situ biofabrication allows for freeform construction of substitute tissue.

Osteoarthritis is a leading cause of disability in developed countries and in the United States, it is second only to cardiovascular disease as the most common cause of disability, affecting 80% of people over the age of 65. Early physical symptoms, such as the development of chondral lesions on the articular surface of the knee, are typically not detected by the individual as articular cartilage is aneural, and such defects cannot self-repair. Currently no clinical strategies are as yet able to consistently reproduce normal hyaline cartilage. The biopen may provide the solution.

Development of the Biopen: A handheld device for surgical printing of adipose stem cells at a chondral wound site

  • What are your thoughts on the idea of delivering living cells directly into the body in the manner of the biopen? What other hand-held 3D printers can you imagine being developed for bioprinting?

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This article is from the free online course:

Bioprinting: 3D Printing Body Parts

University of Wollongong

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