November 4th 2017

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY National Energy Guarantee: lots of smoke, but no coal-fired power

EDITORIAL Popular revolt against the ideology of globalism

CANBERRA OBSERVED Paris still rules in the party room

ENERGY Renewables and gas conspire to push up prices

ENVIRONMENT Climate change did not cause California fires

ELECTRICITY Consumers will wake up only when there are blackouts: economists

ECONOMICS Something new under the sun from China

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Abbott gets brickbats for exposing house of straw

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Australia is far from fulfilling its potential

TECHNOLOGY Aussie scientists 'write' with adult stem cells

75TH ANNIVERSARY NCC: new challenges, kind of new adversaries

MUSIC All around the beat: the essential drummer

CINEMA Happy Death Day: Deja vu with a sharp edge

BOOK REVIEW Traditions under threat fight back

BOOK REVIEW Journey to freedom


ENERGY Coal-fired power needed to restore economic growth

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Aussie scientists 'write' with adult stem cells

by Therese Mount

News Weekly, November 4, 2017

Researchers from the University of Wollongong (UOW) and St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne have developed a tool that can replace tissue on site.

The “BioPen” effectively “draws” on new tissue customised to the patient using 3D printing technology. If successful in human trials, the BioPen has the potential to revolutionise the way doctors treat degenerative disease and perform transplant surgery in patients.

The BioPen works by laying down adult stem cells, sourced from the patient, on sites of tissue damage. The pen is filled with a gel-like protective substance containing the stem cells as well as growth factors to stimulate differentiation – the process by which a cell becomes specialised.

The specific mixture in the pen is designed to promote the proliferation of the cell type needed to repair the damage. Ultraviolet light is simultaneously shone during the procedure to solidify the dispensed material systematically to ensure the proper repair takes place.

The researchers at UOW responsible for the BioPen are based at The Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES). Building upon previous ACES studies, where cartilage cells were grown on 3D printed scaffolds, the team developed the BioPen prototype.

The handheld device was used successfully in sheep to grow new cartilage. Layer by layer the “ink” was applied to knee injuries where cartilage had previously been destroyed. The stem cells were found to multiply, differentiate and form a matrix of new cartilage cells. The researchers at ACES suggest these results indicate the BioPen could be useful in treating arthritis and similar conditions involving cartilage decay and injury.

The technology is now in the hands of their clinical research partners at the Aikenhead Centre for Medical Discovery (ACMD) at St Vincent’s Hospital for the advancement of human trials.

Dr Claudia Di Bella, an orthopaedic surgeon from St Vincent’s Hospital, said: “The goal would be to try and repair certain injuries like cartilage injuries that at the moment are impossible to repair completely.” She added: “It would be a fairly [easy], almost stock-standard surgical operation that we do already with a new instrument that is fairly easy to use.”

The team at ACMD forecast human studies to begin within the year.

Depending on the success of human trials, the BioPen may be further developed to treat not only arthritis but a variety of conditions. Heading the research at ACMD, Professor Peter Choong, Director of Orthopedics at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne and the Sir Hugh Devine Professor of Surgery, University of Melbourne, has speculated: “This type of treatment may be suitable for repairing acutely damaged bone and cartilage, for example from sporting or motor vehicle injuries.”

Those suffering the debilitating effects of a degenerative disease, either due to an acute injury or simple wear and tear, can draw encouragement from this news.

Professor Choong recognised the collaborative effort that has brought the project to his field of expertise: “The research team brings together the science of stem cells and polymer chemistry to help surgeons design and personalise solutions for reconstructing bone and joint defects in real time.”

The project has attracted the input of a number of well-established research bodies from around Australia. As well as the teams at ACES and ACMD, the Materials Node of the Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF), was closely involved in the design and fabrication of the Biopen.

The ANFF, based at the Australian Institute for Innovative Materials at UOW and the University of Newcastle, specialises in the development of nanostructured devices to source improvement in various projects, including biomedicine. It worked closely with the ACES to supply the 3D printers suited for the generation of new cell tissue.

Also significant to notice is the use of adult stem cells over embryonic in this research. Adult stem cells are now considered the better option in research. This is because they can be extracted from the patient to undergo surgery and so the risk of rejection, initiated by the immune system, is greatly reduced if not eliminated. Adult stem cells are also clearly the more ethical option as no destruction of human life is necessary in the harvesting process.

It is exciting to see Australian scientists developing fresh ways to partner the exploding field of 3D printing with the reproductive power of stem cells. The BioPen looks promising in its therapeutic potential, able to treat conditions in both the elderly and very young.

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April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm