The University of Toronto unveiled a 3D skin printer this week that can dispense skin tissue onto an existing wound, eventually healing it. Researchers say it is an alternative to skin-graft procedures because it allows skin to be created by bio ink directly on the wound, eliminating the need of healthy skin from a donor.
“Our skin printer promises to tailor tissues to specific patients and wound characteristics,” says University of Toronto PhD student Navid Hakimi, who lead the research. “And it’s very portable.”
According to a press release from the University of Toronto, “The handheld skin printer resembles a white-out tape dispenser – except the tape roll is replaced by a microdevice that forms tissue sheets. Vertical stripes of ‘bio ink,’ made up of protein-based biomaterials including collagen, the most abundant protein in the dermis, and fibrin, a protein involved in wound healing, run along the inside of each tissue sheet.”
This news comes only weeks after the University of Minnesota announced that they had created a 3D printer capable of printing electronic devices directly onto a person’s skin. The technology could be used by soldiers on a battlefield, they say, to print sensors of chemical or biological weapons, as well as solar cells to charge electronics.
UofM researchers also successfully printed biological cells on an open wound on a mouse. The technique could lead to new medical procedures for skin wounds and the direct printing of grafts for skin disorders.
The UofM device is lightweight, portable and inexpensive, costing less than $400. It can also adjust to small movements of the body during printing, a key innovation in the field of skin-printing.
“We imagine that a soldier could pull this printer out of a backpack and print a chemical sensor or other electronics they need, directly on the skin. It would be like a ‘Swiss Army knife’ of the future with everything they need all in one portable 3D printing tool,” said study lead and University of Minnesota Benjamin Mayhugh Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering.
Photo of University of Toronto researchers with their “skin printer” by Liz Do