Australian surgeons hope to prevent the onset of osteoarthritis in patients by using 3D technology to print live cells to repair damage to bones, muscles, tendons and tissue in organs.
The Aikenhead Centre for Medical Discovery based at St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne has developed the Biopen, a 3D printer pen filled with stem cell “ink” which has successfully been tested on sheep to repair knee injuries.
Orthopaedic surgeon Claudia Di Bella from St Vincent’s Hospital said the treatment involved stem cells being taken from the patient before surgery and put inside the pen in special ink cartridges.
“[The pen] prints that in a material which is called hydrogel that allows your cells not just to survive but also increase in numbers and then make certain types of tissues, and in our case cartilage,” she said.
“The goal would be to try and repair certain injuries like cartilage injuries that at the moment are impossible to repair completely.”
The idea is to treat young people, including athletes, early to slow down or prevent the onset of osteoarthritis, which is a huge cost to the health system.
In the sheep trials, the technology had no complications and was easy to use, Dr Di Bella said.
Image Credit: St Vincent’s Hospital