The Device University of Toronto Researchers Are Hoping Will One Day Make Perfect Skin

A new, glue-gun-like 3D skin printer is making headlines. University of Toronto researchers has developed a handheld 3D skin printer that deposits even layers of skin tissue to cover and heal deep wounds. The team believes it to be the first device that forms tissue in situ (in natural state/position), depositing and setting in place, within two minutes or less.

The idea is the hope to treat deep wounds such as those associated with burns one day. Only in the proof of concept stage, a new study posted in Lab on a Chip, proves this “printer” to be effective and safe on small wounds on pigs and mice.

The device is not ready for humans. Skin is extremely complex. While the makeup of the printed skin includes collagen and fibrin, it does not have the full detailed functionality of the stratum corneum of the epidermis.

Often in severe burns, all three layers of the epidermis are damaged. The functions of these layers are vital for keeping bad germs from entering our body, producing elasticity and strength, and preventing water loss. As our skin is the largest organ of the body, it is extremely vital in our immune protection.

The research and work being completed at the University of Toronto could be an answer to precision medicine for skin related conditions. Resembling the lines of a “white-out” dispenser, vertical stripes of “bio-ink,” made up of protein-based biomaterials including collagen, the most abundant protein in the dermis, and fibrin, a protein involved in wound healing, run along the inside of each tissue sheet.

The printed ink currently appears to help cell growth and clotting of the blood, but it not yet complete with stem cells that can grow into hair follicles, blood vessels and various types of cells in the correct configuration to create perfect skin. 

Their research and trials will continue to move forward in hopes to bring 3D skin printing a reality.

For those interested in the medical details, read the published paper from April 11, 2018, on Lab on a Chip.