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Researchers Build 3D Bioprinter Prototype To Create Functional Human Skin: What Is 3D Bioprinting?

26 January 2017, 10:00 am EST By Kalyan Kumar Tech Times
The prototype of a 3D bioprinter that can generate functional human skin has been developed by Spanish scientists.   ( Universidad Carlos III de Madrid )

There is good news from Spain about an upcoming opportunity for printing human skin to support burn victims and others who will be requiring skin replacement at reasonable costs.

This follows the feat of Spanish biologists in making a 3D bioprinter prototype for creating a functional human skin.

The research was conducted at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Marañón and the Center for Energy, Environmental and Technological Research.

The study has been published in the scientific journal Biofabrication.

"3D bioprinting has emerged as a flexible tool in regenerative medicine," the authors wrote.

They said the results have established that 3D bioprinting is a good technology in making bioengineered skin for therapeutical and industrial applications in an automatized manner.

"It can be transplanted into patients or used in business settings to test chemical products, cosmetics or pharmaceutical products in quantities and with timetables and prices that are compatible with these uses," said José Luis Jorcano, one of the researchers behind the project.

"This method of bioprinting allows skin to be generated in a standardized, automated way, and the process is less expensive than manual production," Alfredo Brisac, CEO of BioDan Group explained.

Replicating Real Human Skin

Structure wise, the artificial skin is replicating the real human skin with an epidermis-like external layer for protection, where a thicker layer serves as the dermis and another layer of fibroblast cells for collagen production, which provides the protein required for the elasticity and mechanical strength of the skin.

However, there is still a long way to go. Before selling the 3D printed skin to medical centers, there has to be approval from the European regulatory agencies in making sure that the 3D bio printed skin is fit for transplants on burn patients and others. But researchers are hopeful that the new skin printing technology will deliver a functionally safe product and bring relief to millions of patients.

Concept Of Bioprinting

Bioprinting deploys printing devices that deposit biological materials to construct 3D artificial tissues using computer devices. They artificially construct living tissue by generating living cells layer-upon-layer.

Developed by Gabor Forgacs from the University of Missouri in the U.S., bio-printers can print complex 3D structures by combining "bio ink" and "bio paper." Still at the nascent stage but in the long run can create organs for replacement and develop human tissues from raw biological materials.The leading player in bio-printing industry is Organovo. An insight into how bio-printing works can be useful.

How Does It Work?

For bioprinting, an organ is cut horizontally to see the array of cells on the surface for making the bioInk, which changes into spheroids. When the BioInk is placed inside, the bio-printer spheroids are dropped into the hydrogel, which is the placeholder. By repeated action, layers of spheroids form a 3D tissue.

Experimental bioprinters had a starting point from the efforts of Makoto Nakamura, who in 2002 postulated that the droplets of ink in a standard inkjet printer are similar to the size of human cells.

The synergy made him adapt the technology and made a bioprinter that can print out biotubing akin to a blood vessel.

Main Benefits

The benefits include replacing human tissue with full body transplant, cutting the wait list of organ transplants. Printed cells can also offer higher survival rate.

At the flip side, the uncertainty whether the replacement cells within the reconstructed organ can be really functional. Large-scale construction also increases the complexity associated with transplantation.

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