Collaborating with the bioengineering company BioDan Group, scientists from a Spanish university (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid), hospital (Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Maraﬁon) and research institution (ClEMAT, Centro de lnvestigaciones Energeticas, Medioambientales y Tecnologicas) have finally begun to realize the true medical potential of 3D printing technology. By joint efforts, they designed and built the first 3D bioprinter that manufactures a real substitute for the outer organ of the human body. The new invention can create a fully functional human skin.
How it works
The printing process deposits bioink — patented by ClEMAT — on an orderly matrix through a computer-assisted schedule. The structure of the final product resembles that of human skin in its biological and physical properties.
The developers highlighted that this technology only uses human cells, which may come from a general stock (allogeneic skin) or from the patients themselves (autologous skin). The cells are grown in a lab for a period of time (up to two weeks). When there are enough cells, the new device can use them to print new skin tissue in only one or two days. These cells go into the bioinks, alongside proteins and other biological elements.
Industrial and medical applications
One of the major benefits of this 3D bioprinting technology is that it is capable of mass-producing allogeneic skin tissue for multiple industrial purposes at a relatively low cost. Companies from a wide range of fields could make use of allogeneic skin samples to test new products or techs faster and cheaper.
Automation of skin production could also speed up certification processes in light of safety, toxicity, hygiene, and other standards. Scientists exemplified how this new technology is of great value for cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries owing to the need to rigorously test and certify products before release.
Some fields of medical research could also take advantage of artificial human skin to reduce animal testing and achieve results that translate more accurately to humans.
Contribution to personalized medicine
The new invention also enables a more personalized and efficient treatment when skin grafting is risky or impossible. Autologous skin can be used in transplants for patients with skin diseases or injuries. Growing new tissue out of the patients' own cells ensures that it won’t be rejected by the body, freeing patients from immunosuppressants.
More to come
Amidst the ongoing 3D printing revolution, the medical field is seeing possibilities emerge at unprecedented rates. The creators now plan to develop more sophisticated devices to print other organs. At the same time, they are already trying to bring the new breakthrough to the general public - the prototype is currently undergoing a pro-approval review process by several European regulatory institutions before it goes commercial.