Researchers have developed a prototype for a 3D bioprinter that can create totally functional human skin. This skin is adequate for transplanting to patients or for use in research or the testing of cosmetic, chemical, and pharmaceutical products, according to a study published in Biofabrication (Dec. 5, 2016; 9(1)).
The team of researchers from the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, CIEMAT (Center for Energy, Environmental and Technological Research), and Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Marañón in Spain, in collaboration with the firm BioDan Group, has demonstrated that using the new 3D printing technology makes it possible to produce functional human skin.
This new human skin is one of the first living human organs created using bioprinting to be introduced to the marketplace. It replicates the natural structure of the skin, with the epidermis, stratum corneum and the dermis. This last layer consists of fibroblasts that produce collagen, the protein that gives elasticity and mechanical strength to the skin.
Bioinks are key to 3D bioprinting, according to researchers. When creating skin, injectors with biological components are used instead of cartridges and coloured inks. Dr. Juan Francisco del Cañizo, of the Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Marañón and Universidad Complutense de Madrid researcher, in a press release said, “knowing how to mix the biological components, in what conditions to work with them so that the cells don’t deteriorate, and how to correctly deposit the product is critical to the system.” The act of depositing these bioinks is controlled by a computer, which deposits them on a print bed in the precise order to produce the skin.
The process for producing these tissues can be carried out in two ways: to produce allogeneic skin from a stock of cells, done on a large scale, for industrial processes; and to create autologous skin, which is made case-by-case from a patient’s own cells, for therapeutic use, such as in the treatment of severe burns.
“We use only human cells and components to produce skin that is bioactive and can generate its own human collagen, thereby avoiding the use of the animal collagen that is found in other methods,” the researchers noted.
This technique is being assessed by different European regulatory agencies to guarantee that the skin that is produced is adequate for use in transplants on burn patients and those with other skin problems. In addition, these tissues can be used to test pharmaceutical products, as well as cosmetics and consumer chemical products where current regulations require testing that does not use animals.