Scientists at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science in Melbourne, Australia have developed a handheld 3D printer capable of combining a patient’s stem cells with a hydrogel bioink that can repair and create new cartilage in the body. The “biopen” itself is a 3D-printed device made from titanium and plastic materials. The pen is expected to make a substantial impact in patients with arthritis, as well as those that require joint replacements.
The system works by encasing the patient’s cells in a protective hydrogel that contains all of the nutrients stem cells need to multiply and repair cartilage. The pen emits a low-power ultra-violet light that helps “set” the new cells in place so they can proliferate. Future iterations of the device might also be able to “print” skin and various types of tissues.