3D Skin Printing – A New Way to Heal 2


3D printing of skin is the medical community’s new hope for helping people with traumatic skin injuries. There are plenty of situations where the skin becomes severely damaged. The most common of course is through burns. In war zones the damage can be horrific and life threatening. And, sometimes the cure can cause more damage to the body.

The standard for treating someone with burns over their body is to graft skin from other areas. That means that there has to be enough skin left to graft. In many cases, especially with burns, the damage may be so extensive that there is not enough skin to use to graft.

3D printing of skin directly on a person’s leg

Throughout the years there have been several different options when it comes to what and how to graft to help the skin heal but all of them offer similar results. Painful treatments, extensive treatments (years in many cases) and skin that does not provide a natural look are often the norm.

Amazing Skin Transplant Possibilities

The 3D skin printing opens up a world of possibilities for healing. Printing new skin for patients is an option for the near future. Researchers at Leiden University in Holland are working hard to make this technology available soon.

The process is actually simplistic and is quite noninvasive. A small amount of healthy skin is secured from the patient. The skin cells are then multiplied in a culture. These cells then become the “ink” for the bioprinter. The medical bioprinter prints out the skin that is customized for the host and is then transplanted.

3D printed sheet of skin

Why it Works-IPS

Induced pluripotent stem cells are very adaptable cells that can be crafted into many different organs including the skin. These stem cells work by the natural desire to be organized. Unlike other 3D printing in medical applications (organs, bones etc.) the skin is made of simpler cells (though in multiple layers) that line up neatly to form layers thereby protecting the body.

The simple single layering is easier to replicate than other more complex body parts like organs.

Portable Printers

Many battlefield injuries cause hefty skin damage. The scientists at Wake-Forest University in North Carolina are currently working on a portable 3D skin printer. Their version will print artificial skin. This is because the emerging medicine that supports creating skin from stem cells has yet to be perfected, approved and widely accepted.

Being able to produce a portable machine that can attend to soldiers on the battlefield has life-saving implications.

3D printing in cosmetic surgery

Other Applications

Of course saving lives and improving the quality of life of people that receive this treatment will change how skin wounds are treated. But there are other areas that can also greatly benefit from this new invention.

Medical Testing

Having access to living human tissue can greatly reduce the amount of time it takes for pharmaceutical companies to make it through the testing phase with new drugs. Being able to test on live human tissue without any of the ethical concerns means that a new world of possibilities will open up for drugs that treat a host of illness and diseases.

Cosmetic companies will benefit from this technology as it can replace many types of animal testing. Teaching institutes will also benefit. The list of benefits is extensive. You can expect to see this technology become a permanent part of the medical landscape in the next 5 years.

Skin printing in 3D is the perfect marriage between sciences. Both computer engineering and medical science are joining forces in order to help millions of people in the future to live longer happier lives.

 

External Links

http://www.livbit.com/article/2010/04/14/bioprinting-helps-in-healing-and-covering-up-of-wounds-faster/

http://explainingthefuture.com/bioprinting.html

http://www.adafruit.com/blog/2013/05/02/fascinating-and-frightening-ways-3d-bioprinting-is-the-next-big-thing-in-medicine-and-science-3dthursday/

http://www.3dprinter.net/extending-human-life-through-bioprinting

http://youtu.be/9D749wZSlb0

http://youtu.be/dHz4akTdno0

http://youtu.be/7Y5H9Sasq5U  – the skin gun

 


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2 thoughts on “3D Skin Printing – A New Way to Heal

  • bree

    I am a nurse in a hospital that sees a lot of trauma action and this is something that would benefit millions of patients worldwide, thousands at our hospital yearly. When will this sort of technology be ready for practical use?

    • Kevin Post author

      When is always the right question to ask. Of course no one can predict the future, but from my research it appears that skin printing will be readily available within the next 5 years.