Now, 3D skin printer can repair wounds in a few minutes

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Representational Image
Representational Image

New Delhi : It is known to all that the healing process of deep wounds demands considerable time. But, this know-how has become a little out-of-date, meaning, deep wounds can be repaired in just a matter of minutes. Researchers have introduced a portable 3D skin printer which deposits smooth layers of tissue to cover and heal deep wounds within a handful minutes.

Our skin has three layers - the epidermis, dermis and hypodermis. For patients with deep skin wounds, all these three layers may be heavily damaged.

The current popular treatment is called split-thickness skin grafting, where healthy donor skin is grafted onto the surface epidermis and part of the underlying dermis.

Split-thickness grafting on large wounds requires healthy donor skin to traverse all three layers, and sufficient graft skin is rarely available. This leaves a portion of the wounded area "ungrafted" or uncovered, leading to poor healing outcomes.

Although a good number of tissue-engineered skin alternatives exist, they are not yet widely used in clinical settings.

"Most current 3D bio printers are bulky, work at low speeds, are expensive and are incompatible with clinical application," said Axel Guenther from University of Toronto in Canada.

The team who has developed this new 3D bio printer believes that there is a platform technology that can overcome barriers, while improving the skin-healing process. 

The handheld skin printer resembles a white out tape dispenser, except the tape roll is replaced by a micro device 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.

"Our skin printer promises to tailor tissues to specific patients and wound characteristics. And it's very portable," said Navid Hakimi, PhD student at University of Toronto.

The handheld device is as small as the shoe box and weighs less than a kilogramme. It also requires minimal operator training which eliminates the washing and incubation stages required by many conventional bioprinters.