Researchers at the University of Toronto have developed a portable 3D skin printer that can repair deep wounds in two minutes or less.
University of Toronto researchers have invented a handheld 3D skin printer which can deposit flat layers of skin tissue to cover and heal deep wounds. The device forms tissue in situ, depositing and setting within two minutes or less.
The handheld skin printer resembles a bulky packing tape dispenser — except that the tape roll is replaced by a microdevice that forms tissue sheets.
Vertical stripes of “bio ink ” run along the inside of each tissue sheet. They are made up of protein-based biomaterials including collagen, the most abundant protein in the dermis, and fibrin, a protein involved in wound healing.
“Our skin printer promises to tailor tissues to specific patients and wound characteristics,” says PhD student Navid Hakimi. “And it’s very portable.”
The handheld device is the size of a small shoe box and weighs less than a kilogram. It also requires minimal operator training and eliminates the washing and incubation stages required by many conventional bioprinters.
The researchers plan to add several capabilities to the printer, including expanding the size of the coverable wound areas. They plan to perform more in vivo studies and hope that one day they can begin running clinical trials on humans — and potentially revolutionize burn care.
For patients with deep skin wounds, all three skin layers – the epidermis, dermis and hypodermis – may be heavily damaged. The current preferred treatment is called split-thickness skin grafting, where healthy donor skin is grafted onto the surface epidermis and part of the underlying dermis.
Split-thickness grafting on large wounds requires enough healthy donor skin to traverse all three layers, and sufficient graft skin is rarely available. This leaves a portion of the wounded area “ungrafted” or uncovered, leading to poor healing outcomes.
And although a large number of tissue-engineered skin substitutes exist, they are not yet widely used in clinical settings.
“Most current 3D bioprinters are bulky, work at low speeds, are expensive and are incompatible with clinical application,” explains Associate Professor Axel Guenther of the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering.
The research team believes their in-situ skin printer is a platform technology that can overcome these barriers, while improving the skin-healing process.
Would you like to know more? The research was recently published in the journal Lab on a Chip.
Source: University of Toronto
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