Researchers at Australia’s University of Wollongong have created a handheld 3D-printing pen that could give surgeons the ability to “draw” a living repair on an injured bone.

The BioPen contains two different types of “ink”, one made from human cells and another which is a protective UV-activated structural gel. It works by layering the cells inside the protective gel, which then hardens under a UV light, which is built into the device.


This could potentially save a lot of time as currently it can take weeks to harvest and grow replacement cartilage tissue. This little handheld device could literally “draw” functional material directly on to a damaged bone, speeding up the whole recovery process for the patient.

Another benefit of the BioPen is that it allows for complete customization, much like any other 3D-printed body parts. Human cells printed directly onto a damaged bone mean it will have functional cartilage, rather than a mass-produced orthopedic implant which doesn’t really function the same way as human tissue.

The pen has now been handed over to researchers at St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne, who plan to optimize the stem cell materials that will make up the living part of the pen’s ink. It is thought that human clinical trials are about five years away, so for now the doctors will just have to be satisfied with drawing on your plaster cast.

[Image via jollygoodnews]