3D device prints skin for burn wounds

Tuesday, 11 February, 2020

3D device prints skin for burn wounds

A handheld 3D printer that deposits sheets of skin to cover large burn wounds has been developed by a team of researchers from the University of Toronto Engineering and Sunnybrook Hospital. The device covers wounds with a uniform sheet of biomaterial, depositing ‘bio ink’ that can accelerate the healing process.

The bio ink dispensed by the roller is composed of mesenchymal stroma cells (MSCs) — stem cells that differentiate into specialised cell types depending on their environment. In this case, the MSC material promotes skin regeneration and reduces scarring.

The project — led by PhD candidate Richard Cheng under the supervision of Professor Axel Guenther (and in close collaboration with Ross Tilley Burn Centre Director Dr Marc Jeschke and his team at Sunnybrook Hospital) — has reported success in treating full-thickness wounds, as reported in the journal Biofabrication.

“Previously, we proved that we could deposit cells onto a burn, but there wasn’t any proof that there were any wound-healing benefits — now we’ve demonstrated that,” Professor Guenther said.

The current method of care for burns is autologous skin grafting, which requires transplantation of healthy skin from other parts of the body onto the wound. But large, full-body burns pose a challenge. Full-thickness burns are characterised by the destruction of both the outermost and innermost layers of the skin and can cover a significant portion of the body.

“With big burns, you don’t have sufficient healthy skin available, which could lead to patient deaths,” Jeschke explained.

“Once it’s used in an operating room, I think this printer will be a game changer in saving lives. With a device like this, it could change the entirety of how we practice burn and trauma care.”

To see the device in action, click here.

Top image caption: (from left) Professor Axel Guenther and PhD candidate Richard Cheng. Photo credit: University of Toronto Engineering/Daria Perevezentsev.

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