No foolin’: this pen “writes” in stem cells. It can draw new body parts.

Science Daily shows off a new medical device that grows new human parts in whatever shape you can draw them:

In a landmark proof-of-concept experiment, Australian researchers have used a handheld 3D printing pen to ‘draw’ human stem cells in freeform patterns with extremely high survival rates.

The device, developed out of collaboration between ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) researchers and orthopaedic surgeons at St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne, is designed to allow surgeons to sculpt customised cartilage implants during surgery.

Using a hydrogel bio-ink to carry and support living human stem cells, and a low powered light source to solidify the ink, the pen delivers a cell survival rate in excess of 97%.

3D bioprinters have the potential to revolutionise tissue engineering -they can be used to print cells, layer-by-layer, to build up artificial tissues for implantation.

But in some applications, such as cartilage repair, the exact geometry of an implant cannot be precisely known prior to surgery. This makes it extremely difficult to pre-prepare an artificial cartilage implant.

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