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New 3D Handheld Printer Can Heal Deep Wounds At A Faster Rate

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The University of Toronto researchers have created a new machine that they believe can heal wounds at a faster rate. The handheld 3D printer prints and deposits layers of tissue that heals deep wounds in a span of two minutes.

3D Skin Repair

The Canadian researchers were led by PhD student Navid Hakimi and were under the supervision of Associate Professor Axel Guenther, who is the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering. Also participating in the study was Dr. Marc Jeschke, director of the Ross Tilley Burn Centre at Sunnybrook Hospital and professor of immunology at the Faculty of Medicine.

The study, which was published in the journal Lab on a Chip, showed that most 3D bioprinters are heavy, bulky, and work at low speeds. This new invention, however, is as small as tissue box and requires minimal operator training. It also lessens the washing and incubation stages required by many conventional bioprinters.

When a deep wound is made, all three layers of the skin, which include the epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis, are severely damaged. The current procedure needed to heal the skin is called split-thickness skin grafting, where a healthy donor gives their skin and is grafted onto the surface of someone's epidermis and part of the underlying dermis.

Because there isn't a sufficient amount of graft skin available during this procedure, the wounded area is usually left uncovered, which can lead to dire health problems.

Hakimi and his team claim that their prototype can overcome these challenges.

"Our skin printer promises to tailor tissues to specific patients and wound characteristics. And it's very portable," Hakimi stated.

The Process

The handheld device that resembles a white-tape dispenser has a microdevice that forms tissue sheets. Vertical strips consisted of bio ink that are made up of protein-based biomaterials, including collagen and fibrin, run along the inside of the tissue sheet. Collagen is the most important protein in the dermis layer, and fibrin is a protein needed to heal wounds.

The researchers stated that they will continue to modify and add new capabilities to the device, including expanding the size of the coverable wound areas. The team also hopes to begin running tests on humans and treat burn injuries.

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