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Human Skin Replacement? 3-D printers have moved from plastic to metal, now to Human Tissue

The skin bioprinter is the product of a collaboration of scientists from Spain's Universidad Carlos III de Madrid

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FILE - The hands of a burn victim are pictured after she received skin grafts. VOA

Jan 26, 2017: 3-D printers have moved from plastic to metal, and now to human tissue.

Spanish scientists report they have designed a machine capable of printing a replacement for human skin using special bio-ink consisting of human skin cells and other biological components.

The printer is in the research stage, but its designers hope it will eventually be approved for treating burn patients, as well as for replacing animals in the testing of cosmetic and pharmaceutical products.

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According to the scientific report, published in the online journal Biofabrication, the printed skin has all the essential parts of the natural skin, such as the dermis (the layer of tissue that contains capillaries, nerve endings and other structures), the epidermis (the layer of cells atop the dermis), the stratum corneum (the horny outer layer), and even the collagen, which gives skin its elasticity and mechanical strength.

The skin bioprinter is the product of a collaboration of scientists from Spain’s Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, the Center for Energy, Environmental and Technological Research in Madrid, Madrid’s General Gregorio Maranon Hospital and Spanish bioengineering firm BioDan Group.

Meanwhile, Chinese biotechnology firm Sichuan Revotek says it has successfully implanted 3-D-printed blood vessels into rhesus monkeys, in a bid to develop technology for mass-printing of human organs. (VOA)

Next Story

Scientists Use Soft, Living Materials to Create 3D Print Heart Scaffold

The technique called FRESH can print pieces of the heart out of collagen and cells into truly functional parts like a heart valve or a small beating ventricle, according to the study

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3D print heart
The technique called FRESH can print pieces of the heart out of collagen and cells into truly functional parts like a heart valve or a small beating ventricle, according to the study. Wikimedia Commons

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University used soft and living materials to create a biological scaffold, making a step closer to being able to 3D print a full-sized, adult human heart. The study published on Thursday in the journal Science reported the first-of-its-kind technique that could print tissue scaffolds out of a major structural protein in the human body, the Xinhua news agency reported on Friday.

Human organs like the heart are built from specialised cells that are held together by a scaffold called the extracellular matrix (ECM). It has not been possible until now to rebuild the complex ECM using traditional methods.

The technique called FRESH can print pieces of the heart out of collagen and cells into truly functional parts like a heart valve or a small beating ventricle, according to the study. The collagen is a desirable 3D-printing biomaterial since it makes up literally every single tissue in human body. But it starts out as a fluid and tends to deform during printing.

3D print heart
First-of-its-kind technique that could print tissue scaffolds out of a major structural protein in the human body. Pixabay

The FRESH technique allows collagen to be deposited layer-by-layer within a support bath of gel, so that the collagen could solidify in place before being removed from the gel. Then, the support gel would be melted away by heating from room temperature to body temperature without damaging the printed structure.

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The FRESH is a robust and adaptable tissue engineering platform since a wide range of other soft gels including fibrin, alginate, and hyaluronic acid can be used. Also, the researchers managed to accurately reproduce patient-specific anatomical structure.

Looking forward, it has potential applications in many aspects of regenerative medicine, from wound repair to organ bioengineering, according to the researchers. (IANS)