Apr 10, 2018 | By David

A team of researchers based at the Bio-Engineering department of Temple University in Philadelphia has developed another new method to 3D print personalized bandages. Bio-engineering professor Jonathan Gerstenhaber and his team are using a custom-built 3D printer, which makes use of electrospinning technology. This allows the team to create a method to 3D print bio-based bandages directly onto a patient’s skin, enabling a perfect fit for improved comfort and efficiency, as well as improved healing. The team has also completed development of a modified, handheld version of the custom-built 3D bandage printer, which may soon be commercially available.

(Credit: The Temple News)

Electrospinning technology is a way of making synthetic polymer fibers. According to Gerstenhaber, "The method we use to create these fibers is sort of how you create thread from wool by pulling it through a needle and spinning it, just a hundred times smaller." Using this basic idea in combination with the customization potential of 3D printing, the Temple research team were able to solve the common issue of poorly fitting bandages and other wound dressings. 

The 3D printed bandage is applied with water to a patient’s body, and it adheres almost invisibly. As the patient’s body moves, the highly flexible and lightweight bandage moves with it. Not only is the fit better, but the bio-based bandages that the 3D printing method produces also enable wounds to heal much faster. 

(Credit: Jamie Cottrell / The Temple News)

“We’ve mainly been looking at burns, and the sorts of wounds that don’t heal well, and when they heal, they sort of heal like very bad skin”, Gerstenhaber said. The team decided to make use of a special soy protein for the bandages, as this offers faster healing to the underlying tissue than conventional bandage material. He got the idea from a talk given by another professor, Peter Lelkes. He had been experimenting with bone regeneration using fabrics made from cytosine, one of the bases found in DNA. This technique enabled wounds to be healed much faster and more effectively.

The project had the assistance of a number of other bio-engineering professors, as well as undergraduate and graduate students. Baran Arig, a sophomore bio-engineering major, started working on the bandage project as a freshman. He had already studied the electrospinning technique in high school, so his skills were particularly useful. The technique makes use of a viscous solution, which can be spun in order to create a special scaffold. This forms the basis of the bandage’s structure.

(source: iCTERM)

An initial demonstration of the 3D bandage printer was given a few weeks ago, but the team is still working on the prototype. Their main focus is on reducing the time that it takes to scan the targeted area. A smaller, modified prototype is much closer to completion. Gerstenhaber hopes that one day, this handheld version of his 3D bandage printer will be a common item, vastly improving everyday wound care in medical practice or even in people’s homes. The use of tissue regeneration would mean that any surgical intervention, such as skin grafts or implants, would be minimal.

“If I can allow your body to heal itself, that’s really the best thing I can give to you,” Gerstenhaber said. “Especially if that healing is natural and is complete.”



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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