By using patient’s own stem cells, a portable printer eliminates the need for painful skin grafts and improves the over healing process.
Researchers at the University of Toronto built a handheld 3D printer that produces living skin cells. Similar in looks to a tape dispenser, the printer produces a variety of skin tissues. Additionally, the 3D printed skin grows from a patient’s own stem cells so is an exact biological match for each person. This greatly reduces the likelihood of the patient’s body rejecting a skin graft. Using the skin also eliminates the need for painful harvesting of tissue from elsewhere on the body. This helps patients with extensive burns or deep cuts. It also lessens the number of procedures a patient would need because wounds are covered completely in one session.
The printed tissue combines collagen, skin cells and fibrin. Fibrin is a protein and is essential to the healing process. The printer has been in development for years, with researchers recently revealing the latest technology and mechanics. Furthermore, it is lightweight and likely to be used in the future like a paper printing system. Surgeons buy cartridges of skin tissue in the same way ink cartridges are used in paper printing. Developing the device depends on the creation of universal donor skin cells that anyone can use. The time it takes to grow skin cells is especially challenging and is something the team is striving to reduce. The device could prove extremely useful for medics on-the-go and isolated communities.
Technology is improving healthcare in two particularly potent ways – portability and 3D printing. A new lightweight, portable sterilizer uses room-temperature nitrogen dioxide to prepare instruments for surgery. A surgeon’s success in rebuilding the injured parts of the body often lies in the amount of viable bone and tissue that are available. For landmine survivors, personalized pieces of 3D printed scaffolding and lab-grown bone grow in three to four days. How else could 3D printing be applied to health and wellbeing?