Scientists at the University of Wollongong (that’s a real place) in Australia have developed a device that replaces traditional surgery with something more akin to an art project. The BioPen is a handheld 3D printer that can actually print bone directly onto patients during surgery. Soon, surgeons will simply be able to doodle their patients back to health.
The BioPen uses a stem cell ink which can be coaxed into differentiating into muscle, bone, or nerve cells. A seaweed-based growth culture encourages the cells to thrive in their new environment while a second polymer, cured by the use of a UV light, provides a protective shell during the healing process. The complex and adaptive bio-ink can even be further augmented to include growth hormone and other substances that would encourage rapid recovery.