Scientists at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine were inspired by standard inkjet printers found in many home offices. “We started out by taking a typical desktop inkjet cartridge. Instead of ink we use cells, which are placed in the cartridge, said Dr. Anthony Atala, director of the institute.
- The device could be used to rebuild damaged or burned skin;
- The project is in pre-clinical phases and may take another 5 years of development before it is ready to be used on human burn victims;
- Wake Forest will receive approximately $50M from the DoD over the next 5 years to fund projects, including the skin-creating system.
Researchers developed the skin “bio-printer” by modifying a standard store-bought printer. One modification is the addition of a 3 dimensional “elevator” that builds on damaged tissue with fresh layers of healthy skin.
- Burn injuries account for 5% to 20% of combat-related injuries, according to the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine;
- The skin-printing process involves several steps: 1st, a small piece of skin is taken from the patient. The sample is about half the size of a postage stamp, and it is taken from the patient by using a chemical solution;
- Those cells are then separated and replicated on their own in a specialized environment that catalyzes this cell development;
- Cells are expand in large quantities;
- The next step is to put the cells in the printer on a cartridge and print on the patient;
- The printer is then placed over the wound at a distance so that it doesn’t touch the burn victim. “It’s like a flat-bed scanner that moves back and forth and put cells on the patient”;
- Once the new cells have been applied, they mature and form new skin;
- Specially designed printer heads in the skin bio-printer use pressurized nozzles to apply the treatment. (HWM and CNN)
The Bottom Line: Updating our 2/15/11 blog; this device can fabricate healthy skin in anywhere from minutes to a few hours, depending on the size and type of burn; building up the cells layer after layer. However, acquiring an adequate sample can be a challenge in victims with extensive burns since there is sometimes “not enough (skin) to go around with a patient with large burns. The sample biopsy would be used to grow new cells then placed in the printer cartridge. The pressure-based delivery system allows for a safe distance between the printer and the patient and can accommodate a variety of body types. Once the skin-printing device meets FDA regulations, military officials are optimistic it will benefit the general population as well as soldiers.