3D printing is a technique that promises incredible technological breakthroughs in the near future, and a group of scientists in New York seem to have achieved one such innovation. Researchers from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute claim that they have 3D printed skin that is both living tissue, and which features actual blood vessels.
Skin graft assistance
If this sounds like something out of science-fiction, it is rather rapidly becoming science fact. It is hoped that the new approach to producing skin cells will help improve the healing process for patients who need skin grafts, such as those who suffer with severe burns.
The results of the process were published in the journal Tissue Engineering Part A, with the scientists involved in the experiment outlining how they added cells involved in the process of blood vessel creation into animal collagen. This took place within a complicated lattice of 3D printing tissues, which then prompted to the cells to form a vascular structure within a matter of weeks.
There have also been successful tests with animals, as 3D printing skin produced in the experiment was able to connect and communicate with blood vessels in mice. However, it would be premature to suggest that the system can be used with human patients for some time, as the printed skin will still need to be modified using complex gene-editing techniques, otherwise the human body will reject the graft.
But the team involved has already begun to examine the possibility of editing skin cells using gene-sequencing technology referred to as CRISPR, which will help ensure that the scientist can match your skin with that of a potential recipient. This would reduce the chance that the body would reject the skin, meaning that the technology could be implemented in human patients the foreseeable future.
The researchers hope that their discovery will be able to assist people suffering with conditions such as diabetes. In particular, diabetics suffer from a slow healing process due to their condition, which means that wounds can linger for longer than most people experience.
Deepak Vashishth, the director of the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, was one of the researchers involved in the experiment, and was bullish about the potential of 3D printing skin.
“This significant development highlights the vast potential of 3D bioprinting in precision medicine, where solutions can be tailored to specific situations and eventually to individuals,” Vashishth asserted.
3D printing technology has already achieved some incredible breakthroughs in the medical field. Back in May, another team of scientists were able to create a complex system of vessels in a structure which resembled a human lung. Eventually, it is hoped that it will be possible to 3D print internal organs, which would then reduce the burden that currently falls on donors.
In the meantime, the researchers, who have been supported by the National Institutes of Health, will continue to work on their 3D skin printing innovation, with the hope of using it in a medical setting in the years to come.