Scientists at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) have build a bedside bioprinter system that can print bi-layer skin to help heal large wounds or burns. This research was published in Nature’s Scientific Reports on 12 February 2019.
There are many non-healing wounds which require multiple treatments and are also very expensive. Every year hundreds of burn cases are registered, especially casualties from the military. The treatments available are complex and are highly priced.
Currently, doctors use donors skin grafts to help cover the wounds of burn patients. However, there is always a risk of tissue rejection as sometimes the body does not accept the new tissues.
In order to overcome this challenge, scientists created this very first bi-layered skin to help the wounds.
During the study, the scientists used bioprinter technology to deposit cells directly into the wounds. The procedure included dermal fibroblasts and epidermal keratinocytes. Scientists used these cells as they are easy to isolate from a small biopsy of uninjured tissues and can also be expanded.
Dermal fibroblasts are cells inside the layers of skin. These cells are responsible for creating connective tissue and help in recovery from injuries. Epidermal keratinocytes is a type of cell found in the outmost layer of the skin.
Anthony Atala, director of WFIRM and also one of the co-authors of the study said, “A mobile bioprinter that can provide on-site management of extensive wounds could help to accelerate the delivery of care and decrease costs for patients.”
James Yoo, one of the co-authors of the study said, “If you deliver the patient’s own cells, they do actively contribute to wound healing by organizing up front to start the healing process much faster.”
The scientists mixed the cells into a hydrogel and placed it into the bioprinter. The bioprinter then scans the wounds and transfers the data into the software. The software then informs the print heads, which cells to deliver and where exactly to deliver inside the wound layer by layer.
The bioprinter then directly inserts the cells into the wounds. These cells work by duplicating the layered skin structure and also performing normal skin functions. This procedure was then performed on clinical models to provide evidence by placing printed skin directly on the models.
The researchers witnessed that new skin was formed from the outside of the wound. This new skin formation occurred because scientists used the patient’s own cells. The body accepted the tissues as its own and thus did not reject treatment.
The scientists claim that this technology has the ability to eliminate the need for painful skin grafts for patients suffering from large wounds or burns.