Print me some skin

U.S. researchers use 3D printing to create skin grafts and other human tissues.

Comments Off on Print me some skin February 22, 2011
by Design Engineering Staff

WASHINGTON, DC: At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington D.C., U.S. researchers described a process by which skin grafts can be printed using standard ink-jet cartridges. Instead of ink, the cartridges contain skin or cartilage cells suspended in a bio-gel solution.

The process entails 3D scanning an injury to create a precise model of the affected area and then printing the graft from the patient’s donor skin. Different cells types fill the cyan, magenta and yellow ink chambers and the printer arranges the cells in a specific three-dimensional order. According to researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, the same process can also be used to rapid manufacture heart, bone and blood vessel tissues.

Currently in pre-clinical trials, the project will receive $50 million from the US Defense Department to develop a portable bioprinter for use on the battlefield, where it could print compatible skin directly over a severe burn in less than an hour. To date, the group has successfully printed skin grafts up to 10 cm square on a pig.

Also at the AAAS conference, Cornell University engineer Hod Lipson demonstrated a similar bio-printing process by producing a human ear. Although the ear was composed of silicone, Lipson’s team has successfully printed cartilage to reconstruct an injured knee.