3D bioprinter for printing human skin

A team of researchers from Carlos III University of Madrid (UC3M) has demonstrated, for the first time, that, using the new 3D printing technology, it is possible to produce functional human skin.

José Luis Jorcano, professor in UC3M's department of Bioengineering, said that this 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.”

This printed human skin is said to replicate the natural structure of the skin: the 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.

Bioinks are key to 3D bioprinting, according to the researchers. When creating skin, instead of cartridges and coloured inks, injectors with biological components are used. The act of depositing these bioinks is controlled by a computer, which deposits them on a print bed in an orderly manner to then produce the skin.

The process for producing these tissues can be carried out in two ways: to produce allogeneic skin, from a stock of cells, done on a large scale, for industrial processes; and to create autologous skin, which is made case by case from the patient's own cells, for therapeutic use, such as in the treatment of severe burns.

“We use only human cells and components to produce skin that is bioactive and can generate its own human collagen, thereby avoiding the use of the animal collagen that is found in other methods,” the researchers say.

Currently, this development is in the phase of being approved by different European regulatory agencies to guarantee that the skin produced is satisfactory for use in transplants on burn patients and those with other skin problems. In addition, these tissues can be used to test pharmaceutical products, as well as cosmetics and consumer chemical products where current regulations require testing that does not use animals. The researchers are also researching ways to print other human tissues.

Author
Tom Austin-Morgan

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