This 3D Printer Can Print Out Completely Functional Human Skin
For the last 25 years, scientists have been working to grow human skin substitutes to use for applications like wound care and burns. Now, they might have another option: simply print some out.
Spanish scientists have developed a 3D printer that can print out functional human skin, a new study in the journal for the International Society for Biofabrication detailed. This 3D bioprinting technology is currently being tested on a large number of patients in Spain who suffer from a wide range of skin-related trauma—showing that this printable skin technology could potentially have an array of applications.
Called “human plasma-based bilayered skin,” the skin substitute contains both dermal and epidermal components, just like the real thing. Scientists say it can be used for treating burns, helping with chronic wound care, and speeding surgical wound recovery.
To make the skin, researchers used “bioinks” made from human plasma and materials obtained from skin biopsies. The printed skin is indistinguishable from real skin that’s been taken for a graft procedure—that’s crucial for lowering the chances of a patient’s body rejecting it during transplant. And the bioink could be made from a patient’s own skin, making rejection even less likely, the researchers told 3Ders.org, an online 3D printing industry publication.
It takes about three weeks for cultures to grow enough to be used as bioink. But once it’s loaded in the printer, it can produce about 15 square inches of skin in 35 minutes.
Along with treating patients with skin trauma or disorders, the printable skin technology may also be used to test chemical products, cosmetics, or pharmaceuticals, the researchers told 3Ders.org. (These 6 small skin problems can signal a major problem.)
This isn’t a “coming to market in a few decades” type of effort. The bioink is already patented and licensed, so these printers could be on the market by summer.