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New hand-held 3D printer can print human skin in minutes



University of Toronto researchers have developed a new 3D printer that can produce incredibly uniform skin layers. The printer is portable and lightweight and does its job in two minutes or less. This skin could be used to cover and heal deep wounds in patients.

While many tissue engineering skins are already available on the market, most lack complex features and practical application. The new product reproduces the natural properties of human skin. The 3D Skin Printer forms a tissue paper with vertical strips of "biotin" that run along the inside of each sheet. The strips consist of protein-based biomaterials, including collagen, the most abundant protein in the dermis, and fibrin, a wound healing protein.

"Most current 3D bioprinters are bulky, operate at low speeds, are expensive, and are incompatible with clinical application." Professor Axel Guenther, one of the three researchers involved in the study, said.

Currently the best option for healing deep skin wounds is split-thickness skin graft , In this surgical procedure, the healthy donor skin is removed and transplanted into a body area where the skin has been lost. But the process is pretty risky. A large wound needs a healthier skin to replace all three layers of the skin – epidermis, dermis and hypodermis – and sufficient graft skin is rarely available. This leaves the injured area uncovered and leads to poor results. The researchers believe that their 3D skin printer can overcome these barriers and also improve the skin healing process, which is a big step forward.

"Our skin printer promises to tailor tissue to specific patients and wound characteristics," said senior researcher Navid Hakimi. "And it's very wearable."


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