Yet again the technological applications of 3D printing are utterly amazing. Like something right out of “Star Trek,” we are looking at the potential to replace damaged parts of the body with biological “ink.”
Researched and developed at the University of Wollongong in Australia, the BioPen is revolutionary in concept.
Consolidating a 3D printer into something the size of a pen, the machine contains two separate types of ink. The first is comprised of human stem cells, while the other contains a UV-reactive protective gel.
Particularly on bones, the pen can theoretically apply the cells to the damaged areas, subsequently encasing them with the gel. A UV light built into the pen then reacts with the gel, hardening it, and thus forms a layer that allows the cells to grow undisturbed.
The gel is biodegradable so it dissolves as the cells grow into healthy and functional tissue. This process would cut weeks off of recovery times that go with traditional, modern techniques.
Though we are only seeing the potential at the moment, the possibilities are definitely there for future development.
St. Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne has now received the BioPen for further research in stem cell ink. The development team predicts that it may be ready for human clinical trials in about five years.