3D Printing Human Skin

Prototype 3D bioprinter can create functional dermal tissue.

This is a prototype for a 3-D bioprinter that can create totally functional human skin. (Image courtesy of Carlos III University of Madrid.)

This is a prototype for a 3-D bioprinter that can create totally functional human skin. (Image courtesy of Carlos III University of Madrid.)

A team of researchers has demonstrated, for the first time, that it is possible to produce functional human skin with 3D printing technology. José Luis Jorcano, professor in the department of Bioengineering and Aerospace Engineering at Carlos III University of Madrid, has stated that this skin “can be transplanted to patients or used in business settings to test chemical products, cosmetics or pharmaceutical products in quantities and with timetables and prices that are compatible with these uses.”

This new human skin is one of the first living human organs created using bioprinting to be introduced to the marketplace. It replicates the natural structure of skin, with a first external layer, the epidermis, with its stratum corneum, which acts as protection against the external environment, together with another thicker, deeper layer, the dermis. This last layer consists of fibroblasts that produce collagen, the protein that gives skin its elasticity and mechanical strength.

You can read the published research here.

Bioinks are key to 3D bioprinting, according to the researchers. When creating skin, instead of cartridges and colored inks, they used injectors with biological components. Juan Francisco del Cañizo, of the Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Marañón and Universidad Complutense de Madrid explained:

“Knowing how to mix the biological components, in what conditions to work with them so that the cells don’t deteriorate, and how to correctly deposit the product is critical to the system.” Deposition of these bioinks, which are patented by CIEMAT and licensed by the BioDan Group, is controlled by a computer, which deposits them on a print bed in an orderly manner to then produce the skin.

The process for producing these tissues can be carried out in two ways: to produce allogeneic skin, from a stock of cells, done on a large scale for industrial processes, or to create autologous skin, which is made case by case from the patient’s own cells, for therapeutic use, such as in the treatment of severe burns.

“We use only human cells and components to produce skin that is bioactive and can generate its own human collagen, thereby avoiding the use of the animal collagen that is found in other methods,” the researchers stated. In addition, they are also researching ways to print other human tissues.

According to the researchers, there are several advantages to this new technology. “This method of bioprinting allows skin to be generated in a standardized, automated way, and the process is less expensive than manual production,” said Alfredo Brisac, CEO of BioDan Group, the Spanish bioengineering firm specializing in regenerative medicine that is collaborating on this research and commercializing this technology.

Currently, this development is still being evaluated by different European regulatory agencies to guarantee that the skin that is produced is adequate for use in transplants on burn patients and those with other skin problems.

For more 3D printing and bioengineering, check out the 5 3D printing technologies on every bioengineer’s wish list.

Source: Carlos III University of Madrid