Design Engineering

UofT 3D bio-printer creates skin grafts directly on wounds

By DE Staff   

Additive Manufacturing Medical

Researchers say handheld printer can help repair multi-layer skin damage within minutes.

From left to right, Associate Professor Axel Guenther, Navid Hakimi and Richard Cheng have created the first ‘skin printer’ that applies grafts to wounds in situ. (photo by Liz Do)

University of Toronto researchers have created a portable 3D bio-printer that can help repair even deep skin damage within a few minutes, the engineering team says. Developed by PhD student Navid Hakimi, under the supervision of Axel Guenther, UofT Applied Science & Engineering associate professor, the handheld printer applies layers of bio-ink directly on the affected area, in contrast to other bio-printers that produce skin grafts which are later applied to the wound.

Designed in conjuction with Dr. Marc Jeschke, director of the Ross Tilley Burn Centre at Sunnybrook Hospital and professor of immunology at the Faculty of Medicine, the device operates similar to a tape dispenser. Bio-ink and cross-linking solutions are dispense by a multi-channeled micro-fluidic cartridge in a thin line across the wound. Rollers on either side of the cartridge maintain consistent layer thickness by coordinating fluid flow to roller speed. The bio-inks themselves combine dermal and epidermal cells plus alginate, a cross-linkable biomaterial and proteins like collagen and fibrin.

Weighing less than a kilogram, the handheld device requires minimal operator training, the researchers say, and eliminates the washing and incubation stages required by conventional bio-printers. Still in development, the printer is currently undergoing further in vivo studies at Sunnybrook Hospital but the researcher team plan to continue adding capabilities to the printer, including expanding the size of the coverable wound areas. They hope to begin clinical trials on humans, and eventually revolutionize burn care. The research was recently published in the journal Lab on a Chip.



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