It is widely known that 3D printers are capable of producing everything from toys to jewelry, to even food. But skin?
Our skin is the first line of defense when it comes to any injury. The skin protects the body from heat and fluid loss, as well as infections. If left unattended, a burned hand will become less flexible and tighter in absence of healthy skin, which is why a burn injury is one of the most dangerous and debilitating injuries of war.
Burn victims generally have trouble with movements that were relatively easy before their accidents but a solid quality of life is typically realistic. Bioprinted skin comes in to play when dealing with extensive burns, as a result of the lack of healthy skin available.
Bioprinted skin has the potential to completely heal large burns and scars.
The United States Armed Forces are hoping to heal soldiers’ wounds by utilizing 3D bioprinted skin in the near future since personalized bioprinted skin would lead to quicker recovery.
Scientists in an Army-funded laboratory of Wake Forest University’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine have designed, built and tested a printer that uses a patient’s own cells instead of ink to create new skin for burn wounds.
Here’s how it works…
First, a scanner is used to determine the wound depth and size. Then, the printer uses this information to apply layers of the correct type of cells required to cover the wound.
The cartridges features two types of skin cells, fibroblasts and keratinocytes, as the 3D printer needs healthy skin cells for successful skin printing. Fibroblasts make the deep layer of skin while keratinocytes make the top layer.
See this video of the printer in action here
Besides printing skin, the printer can also be used to bioprint organs, limbs and vascular systems.
Soon, the process will move to clinical trials and you will be able to see 3D printed skin and other organs at your local hospital.