3D printing has made wonderful advancements that benefit the medical community, and a new development from researchers at the University of Toronto could become a huge positive for both patients and health operators.
The team of researchers, led by PhD student Navid Hakimi who worked under the supervision of Associate Professor Axel Guenther of the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering along with the collaboration of Dr. Marc Jeschke who is the director of the Ross Tilley Burn Centre at Sunnybrook Hospital along with professor of immunology at the Faculty of Medicine, have revealed a 3D skin printer that is handheld.
Published in the journal Lab on a Chip, the printer deposits an even layer of skin tissue that can be used to both cover and heal deep skin wounds. This is beneficial for patients who have deep skin wounds in which all three layers of skin, including the epidermis, dermis and hypodermis could have been heavily damaged.
3D Skin Printer Overcoming Barriers
When treating deep skin wounds currently, the treatment that is preferred is called split-thickness skin grafting. This is where donor skin that is healthy is grafted onto the skin, called the surface epidermis along with a part of the dermis that lies under this. The problem with this process is that for large wounds it requires enough healthy skin that can be used to traverse all three layers, which is often not available.
Current 3D bioprinters that are available often work at lower speeds along with being both bulky and expensive, making them incompatible with medical applications. But the University of Toronto research team believes that their new printer can help to overcome the barriers presented.
The new skin printer does not resemble a normal printer and instead looks like a tape dispenser, only the tape roll is instead a microdevice that will form tissue sheets. Each sheet contains vertical stripes of ‘bio ink’ that are made of up certain protein-based biomaterials. These include collagen and fibrin, which is involved in wound healing.
There is minimal operator training required to use the printer and eliminates any washing and incubation stages that are required from conventional printers. Alongside this, the small size of this printer can prove to be a large benefit as it is the size of a small shoe box and has a light weight of less than a kilogram.