3D printed skin will heal deep wounds

Надрукована 3D-принтером шкіра загоїть навіть глибокі рани
Photo: Liz Do / University of Toronto
Зліва направо: професор Аксель Гюнтер, Навід Хакимі і Річард Ченг

Canadian researchers have created handheld 3D printer that needs several minutes to print skin able to heal even the deepest wounds.

Researchers at the University of Toronto in Canada have developed 3D printer that prints human skin. The printer is compact enough to hold it in one hand and to operate it freely, by creating artificial skin covering to heal the wounds – mostly burns. An important feature of this artificial skin will help the patients even with deep skin wounds, when all three skin layers – epidermis, dermis, and subcutaneous tissue (hypodermis) – are heavily damaged. You need no exceptional skills to handle this device. Finished transplant material needs no incubation. Development testing results were published in Lab on a Chip journal.

Innovative solution will help to save lives of people with extensive burns. As a general rule, skin grafting is used to heal burns, when healthy donor skin is transplanted to the damaged areas. However, in this case you shall have enough donor skin, which is not always available. Therefore, donor skin is transplanted to some skin area, which contributes to rapid skin healing, while the healing process of remaining skin area is rather slow and less effective.

So far, skin substitutes able to help in the most severe cases are rarely used, 3D printers that print synthetic skin suitable for direct transplantation are expensive, bulky, work slowly and deliver low quality materials. Portable solution of Canadian researchers weights less than one kilogram and prints tissues for transplantation by using fully biologically-compatible protein-based biomaterials including collagen – the most abundant protein in the dermis – as an “ink”. Fibrin, a protein involved in wound healing, is being run along the inside of each tissue sheet.

Researchers of the working group headed by Navid Hakimi under the supervision of Professor Axel Guenther hope that one day they will proceed to clinical trials of new treatment methods on human subjects and to revolutionize burns treatment. However, is too early for the researchers to predict some time-frames.