May 3, 2018 | By David

A team of researchers at the University of Toronto has developed an innovative new 3D bio-printing device. Their handheld bio-pen is capable of printing skin tissue on deep wounds in order to start the healing process, and the process can be achieved in a remarkably short amount of time. The portable 3D skin printer can form tissue in situ, deposit it, and set it in place, all within two minutes or less.

The research was led by PhD student Navid Hakimi, under the supervision of Associate Professor Axel Guenther of the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, and in collaboration with Dr. Marc Jeschke, director of the Ross Tilley Burn Centre at Sunnybrook Hospital and professor of immunology at the Faculty of Medicine. The results of their project were detailed in an article entitled "Handheld Skin Printer: In-Situ Formation of Planar Biomaterials and Tissues", published in the journal Lab on a Chip.

We’ve reported before on the exciting developments in the ever-expanding field of 3D bio-printing, and 3D printed skin tissue is perhaps one of the most promising applications of the technology, with a number of effective solutions for skin tissue regeneration extensively tested and approved. However, the current bio-printing equipment used in labs tends to be excessively bulky and usually quite expensive and complicated, which has limited its use in clinical situations. The UoT researchers’ 3D skin printer could provide a solution to these issues, offering a cheap and practical handheld treatment device for the healing of skin wounds.

Patients with deep skin wounds will often have damage to all three layers of their skin: the epidermis, the dermis, and the hypodermis. The current preferred treatment is called split-thickness skin grafting, where healthy donor skin is grafted onto the surface epidermis and part of the underlying dermis. There needs to be enough donor skin to cover all three layers for this split-thickness skin grafting approach to be effective, but this is rarely possible. A portion of the wounded area is usually left "ungrafted" or uncovered, which leads to poor healing outcomes.

The UoT researcher’s handheld 3D bio-printer uses tissue sheets and a special bio-ink, which allows for improved regeneration of tissue. Tissue sheets are laid down on to specific parts of the wound area, to form a base to effectively regrow the damaged skin. The bio-ink is made up of protein-based biomaterials including collagen, which is the most abundant protein in the dermis, as well as fibrin, a protein that is crucial for wound healing. These bio-ink materials run in vertical stripes along the inside of each tissue sheet.

(images: UoT, Lab on a Chip)

Resembling a tape dispenser, the handheld 3D bio-printing device is the size of a small shoe box and weighs less than a kilogram (2.2 lbs). It also requires minimal operator training, and it eliminates the washing and incubation stages that are often required by many conventional 3D bio-printing devices. The team hope that someday their portable 3D bio-printer can be used in a clinical setting, in order to revolutionize the treatment of burns and other major skin wounds.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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