Design Engineering

3D skin graft bioprinter wins Canadian 2014 James Dyson Award

Mike McLeod   

General Medical James Dyson Award slideshow University of Toronto University of Victoria

University of Toronto PrintAlive and four runners-up to compete for $50,000 international prize.

14-Sept-Dyson-award-PrintAlive-625The PrintAlive Bioprinter, a 3D printer that produces artificial skin grafts for burn victims, has been awarded the top prize in the Canadian leg of the 2014 James Dyson Award, an international student product design contest.

Developed by University of Toronto mechanical and biomedical engineering graduate students, Arianna McAllister and Lian Leng, the PrintAlive represents a major step forward in producing “high-resolution human microtissue arrays,” the printer’s creators say and could significantly speed burn victim recovery time.

Similar in concept to a conventional 3D printer, the PrintAlive doesn’t create a skin graft in the traditional sense, but instead produces a kind of “living bandage” hydrogel. As its build material, the system extrudes a biopolymer infused with human keratinocytes and fibroblasts in a 3D structure that mimics the epidermal and dermal layers of human skin.

According to its inventors, the PrintAlive has the potential to overcome the limitations of existing severe burn treatments. For example, traditional skin grafts are limited in size and can introduce infection or rejection issues, while techniques that grow skin cells to be applied over a larger area take weeks for cultivation. By contrast, the UofT technology could produce large custom-built hydrogel sheets rapidly.


“As we move towards more complex animal models, we are hoping that our cell-populated sheets and bioprinting approach can one day be used as on-demand custom grafts for patients with severe burns,” McAllister says. “Compared to the current standard of care, this would significantly reduce the amount of donor cells needed and the overall printing and culture time before application to the wound. Using the patients’ own cells would completely eliminate immunologic rejection, and the need for painful autografting and tissue donation.”

For winning the Canadian stage of the award, the UofT team will receive $3,500 to help further develop the technology. Currently, the PrintAlive is in the process of clinic testing and pre-commercialization. The University of Toronto students are looking to scale their bench top prototype to a higher volume automated process.

In addition to the winner, four runner-ups will go on to compete in the international award. Runners-up include:

The EcoSat is a small CubeSat developed by a University of Victoria team that also won the Canadian Satellite Design Challenge earlier this year. Due for launch into low-earth orbit, the EcoSat will test the diamagnetic properties of pryoltic graphite in zero gravity.

EyeCheck(University of Waterloo) is a camera and smartphone app system that can quickly diagnose vision problems, as well as provide eyeglass prescriptions. Designed for eye camp clinics in the developing world, the system is intended to significantly increase the number of people assessed for vision health per day.

The Skorpion Rock Drill (Humber College) is a drivable mining drill carrier designed to replace heavy “jackleg” hand-drills that account for nearly one-third of all underground injury claims. Once in place, operators can then use the Skorpion to complete the drilling sequence at a safe distance by remote.

Suncayr (University of Waterloo) provides a visual reminder to reapply sunscreen and protect against skin damage from UV rays. Applied on skin with a pen-like marker, the product contains UV sensitive dyes that change color when the sunscreen washes or wears off.

According to the award’s organizer, the James Dyson Foundation, 600 entries were received for the international prize from 18 countries. The international winner, announced November 6th, 2014, will receive CAD$50,000 plus another CAD$18,000 for the student’s university department.

The judges for the Canadian 2014 James Dyson Awards included Lucas Cochran, technology correspondent on Discovery’s DAILY PLANET; Mario Gagnon, founder of Canada’s largest design engineering firm; and this article’s author, Mike McLeod, editor of Design Engineering magazine.


Stories continue below

Print this page

Related Stories