Scientists developed a 3D-printed living skin in hopes of one day preventing the body from rejecting grafted tissue. Researchers combined cells found in human blood vessels with other elements along with animal collagen then printed a skin-like material. A few weeks later, the cells began to form into the vasculature.
Then the skin was grafted onto a mouse and they found it connected with the animal's vessels. The vasculature is the arrangement of blood vessels in an organ or other parts of the body.
Associate professor of chemical and biological engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Pankaj Karande, led the research and said it was very important because they know there is a transfer of blood and nutrients to the graft, keeping the graft alive. He added that it's like a really high-tech Band-Aid which helps the healing process then at some point it will fall off.
The researchers' work was published in the Tissue Engineering Part A journal after the team showed human cells could be used to print material that is very similar to skin. With further work, the team will see about editing the skin cells using CRISPR technology so they can match the recipient's cells making it less likely to be rejected by the body.
Karande is hopeful the technology will help people with pressure ulcers or diabetes to slowly heal their wounds. He added that these patients are perfect because ulcers usually show in very distinct locations on the body and therefore can be focused on to apply smaller pieces of skin.
Deepak Vashishth said this is a significant development that will highlight the vast potential of 3D bioprinting in precision medicine so solutions can be tailored to specific situations and eventually to individual patients. Vashishth is the director of the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies.
The skin is the newest medical advancement made possible by the technology of 3D printing. Back in May, another team of scientists offered the idea of 3D-printed internal organs closer to reality by creating a complex tangle of vessels in a lung-like structure.
Kelly Stevens is an assistant professor at the University of Washington and co-author of the paper published in Science. Stevens explained to Newsweek that the body contains various networks of pipes that bring nutrients to the organs and removes waste from the organ in the body.
Because many of these networks of pipes are entangled, it's been very difficult for scientists to replicate by 3D printing. This new approach allows scientists to create multiple entangled networks of pips in 3D-printed tissues. They were quite surprised to see how structurally complex features could be printed with this new method.