Jun 10, 2016 | By Faith

We’ve all had them: those conversations with people about the incredible future of 3D printing, and the amazing things that the tech can already do. 3D printed houses, 3D printed cars and 3D printed clothes are often noted on the wonder list – and now more and more people are publically coming to realise the astonishing potential of 3D bio-printing.

There’s no doubt that through contemporary additive manufacturing, the sci-fi dreams of generations past are starting to be realised. Yet however distant those eventual dreams may still feel, there are a number of projects that are inspiring millions around the world with their potential to make some major disruptions to the world (and life on that world as we know it).

That potential is absolutely huge in the particular area of research which looks into the 3D printing of skin. The stacking and controlled scaffolding of organic cell structures via additive manufacture is very real – and is a process that has been practiced and refined for the past decade across different research groups. It’s one of the fastest growing areas of research within the 3D bio-printing industry, and its applications are both varied and relevant within the lives of those outside the profession as well as those leading it from within.

The centre for skin research at the University of Gothenburg and Chalmers, Sweden – otherwise known as SkinResQU – is launching an interdisciplinary project between industry and academia to further embrace 3D bio-printing’s potential in this way. An increasing need for testing to perform research on treatment of skin related diseases (namely skin cancer) has driven the establishment of this project more than anything. “Skin cancer is increasing more than any other form of cancer, with 35,000 new cases each year”, explains Marica Ericson, SkinResQU’s Director. “Chronic wounds resulting from diabetes affects approximately 50,000 to 80,000 patients each year, causing great suffering” – problems which primarily affects the elderly.

Currently, tests like this are performed on either animal skin, ‘synthetic’ skin, or donated human skin, but industry leaders continue a growing demand for more materials with which to test. A morally correct prohibition on cosmetic animal testing since 2013 has further stunted research progress – leading many researchers from all corners of varied industries to seriously invest in the creation of living human skin cells via additive technology and advanced biotech.

This application isn’t the only key reason for the necessary development of 3D bio-printing. The ability to one day create human skin for the use of transplant – particularly for burns victims – is another pressing reason why the team at SkinResQU are working hard to realise such an ambitious goal. Around 10-15 senior researchers and their groups are currently involved in stimulating and coordinating the project, with more supporters and developers expected to contribute.

Of course, it’s not only SkinResQU who are working towards the enabled 3D bio-printing of skin tissue. Last year, international cosmetic giant L’Oreal announced a partnership with a commercial biotech firm (based in the US) named Organovo to bio-print functional human tissue as a safer way to develop their product technology and lines. Elsewhere, Procter & Gamble’s Global Life Sciences Open Innovation have supported the concept as an industrial process.

With so much innovation and dedicated research time being placed in this particular area of the 3D bio-printing industry, it’s extremely likely that the mechanical creation of living skin tissue could be a standard treatment in hospitals of the future. It’ll be fascinating not only to see the material results – but also to discuss the ethics of creating such a complex, living substances in research departments the world over.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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