Scientists create the first 3-D bioprinter capable of printing fully functioning skin

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A group of ground-breaking scientists from Spain joined forces and created a prototype for the first 3-D bioprinter that has the capability of producing fully functioning skin.

This new technology is a result of a joint collaboration between a team of researchers from Carlos III University (UC3M), Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Marañón, CIEMAT (Center for Energy, Environmental and Technological Research) and the firm BioDan Group.

Their bioprinter produces fully functioning skin that is adequate for not only cosmetic, chemical and pharmaceutical testing but also skin transplants.  Luis Jorcano, professor in UC3M’s department of Bioengineering and Aerospace Engineering and head of the Mixed Unit CIEMAT/UC3M in Biomedical Engineering, explained to scientific journal Biofabrication that the skin “can be transplanted to 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.”

Skin is one of the most vital organs of our body, weighs between 3 to 4 kilograms, and can stretch up to an average of over 2 square meters. The bioprinted living organ produced is identical to human skin and replicates its natural structure. Phys.org explains, “it replicates the natural structure of the skin, with a first external layer, the epidermis with its stratum corneum, which acts as protection against the external environment, together with another thicker, deeper layer, the dermis. This last layer consists of fibroblasts that produce collagen, the protein that gives elasticity and mechanical strength to the skin.”

This scientific breakthrough grants medical professionals the opportunity to not only help patients with skin related diseases and accidents, but also allows for a new testing platform that will help make future medical discoveries that could change lives.

For many of us understanding the complexity of how a printer could possibly produce organic matter is mind-boggling. Experts explain that biolinks are what make 3D printing possible. Instead of cartridges being filled with ink, bioprinters use biological components instead of ink. Juan Francisco del Cañizo, of the Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Marañón and Universidad Complutense de Madrid researcher, explained to the press that the most important part of the process to correctly mix the biological components. Medicals professionals must be extremely aware of their surroundings and the conditions they are working in to avoid cell deterioration.

The Spanish team of scientists discovered that not only are conditions crucial for the new bioprinter to successfully produce the skin, but specifically how the biological matter is deposited is also critical to the system. CIEMAT joined forced with the BioDan Group and have patented the depositing technology. A computer controls the biolinks and deposits them on a print bed in the intricate and organised manner necessary to produce the fully functioning skin.

The bio-printer could possibly revolutionise the manual technology currently used during the creation of new skin. It is a much longer, drawn-out process that doesn’t effectively meet our society’s demand for this biological matter. It currently takes weeks to create skin grafts and many burn victims, or patients with serious skin conditions, are obliged to wait while the cells cultivate manually.

The new technology has been presented to various European regulatory agencies who has evaluating the fabricated skin’s quality in order to confirm if it is appropriate for human use, specifically for patients suffering from skin diseases and burn victims.

This group of Spanish scientists could very well have created a bioprinter that could change the fate of millions of burn victims and patients suffering from skin diseases around the world.

 

Sources:

El Mundo

Phys.org

Men’s Health

Voa News

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