Gel-ly Bones

A “biopen” that allows surgeons to draw layers of healing cells on damaged bones and cartilage is closer to entering clinical trials after its creators handed it over to scientists under Prof. Peter Choong at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, for further refinement.

Developed by researchers from the Australian Research Council Center of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) at the University of Wollongong in Australia, the pen extrudes cells mixed with a biologically friendly material like seaweed extracts. The mixture is encased in a gel, which can then be painted on in layers. Each layer is cured with an ultraviolet light. The cells are painted onto damaged bone and cartilage sites during surgery and then multiply and grow into nerves, muscles or bone, healing the damaged section. Surgeons already have ways to encourage new growth, but the pen allows them to precisely place cells on the fly.

20131213-060950.jpg 20131213-061726.jpg

“This type of treatment may be suitable for repairing acutely damaged bone and cartilage, for example from sporting or motor vehicle injuries. [The work of the] research team brings together the science of stem cells and polymer chemistry to help surgeons design and personalize solutions for reconstructing bone and joint defects in real time,” said Professor Choong.

The biopen will help build on recent work by ACES researchers where they were able to grow new knee cartilage from stem cells on 3D-printed scaffolds to treat cancers, osteoarthritis and traumatic injury. The device can also be seeded with growth factors or other drugs to assist regrowth and recovery from sporting or motor vehicle injuries.

I hope it’s not just rich football players and idiots doing a ton on the M6 who benefit…

All components in the implantable material are non-toxic and tuned to biodegrade as the cells begin to populate the injured bone area. The design of the device allows it to be easily transported and the surgeon can operate with ease and precision in the operating theatre.

Sources: YouTube / Designboom / AsianScientist