Researchers of the University of Toronto, in association with Sambrook Hospital, has developed a handheld 3D skin printer for treating skin burns. The device can print large sheets of bio-ink that helps in the healing process. When it is tested in pigs as part of clinical trials, it accelerated the regeneration of healthy skin. The 3D printer comes in handy in cases when the patient suffers full body burns. The prototype of the device has been subjected to 10 redesigns ever since its introduction in 2014. The complete research study is published in the Journal Biofabrication.
How does the Handheld 3D Skin Printer heal Skin Burns?
The current model includes a single-use microfluidic printhead and features a soft wheel that follows the process of the print head. The device works by printing a sheet of mesenchymal stromal cells (MSC). They are a type of specialised stem cells that can regenerate into a special type of cells depending on the environment. In this case, the cells differentiate into healthy skin cells (promote skin regeneration) and minimise scarring.
The team tested the efficacy of the handheld printer in pigs with full-thickness burns. Here, the inner and outer layers of the pigskin are damaged. The biomaterial sheets are then placed directly on the wound bed. They were successful in the repopulation of dermal cells and the formation of new blood cells.
Scope of the Current Research
As of now, the patient with skin burns is subjected to skin grafting. In this process, the healthy skin is removed from the unaffected part of the body and is transplanted into the wound. But the process is quite difficult in case of full-body burns wherein the damage extends through several layers of the skin. In such a scenario, the patients often die due to the availability of a large amount of skin. With this 3D handheld printer, it is possible to print multiple layers of sheets in multiple areas of the body with damaged skin.