Four years ago a team of researchers created a microwave-oven sized 3D printer which was able to produce sheets of skin for burn treatment. The same team has now developed a handheld device which will print skin directly on the deep wounds. The gadget was built by a team of researchers from the University of Toronto. The team was led by a Ph.D. student Navid Hakimi under the supervision of associate professor Axel Guenther.
Its functioning is described as working like a white-out tape dispenser. The only difference is that instead of tape it gives sheets of alginate-based tissue. On the bottom side of each sheet, there are stripes of bio-ink which contains biological materials such as skin cells and collagen. It is the most abundant protein in the skin along with fibrin which is a protein that is essential for wound healing.
The machine weighs less than a kilogram and also requires very little training to use it. It eliminates the washing and incubation stages which are required by the conventional bioprinters. It can cover the wound with the skin within two minutes or even less. The device has already been tested on rats and pigs. The scientists are now planning to expand the size of the coverable wound areas and also expecting to begin clinical trials on humans. Hakimi said, “Our skin printer promises to tailor tissues to specific patients and wound characteristics. And it’s very portable.”