Spanish scientists have unveiled a 3D bioprinter that can create functional human skin.
The scientists, from the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, CIEMAT (Center for Energy, Environmental and Technological Research) and the Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Marañón, report that doctors can transplant the 3D-printed skin onto patients or that cosmetic, chemical, or pharmaceutical manufacturers can use it to test their products.
According to the research published in the journal Biofabrication, the bioprinted skin mimics skin’s natural structure, with an external layer meshed with a thicker, deeper layer. The first layer, or epidermis, acts as protection against the external environment, while the second, the dermis, lends elasticity and strength to the skin.
They were able to create this highly realistic skin using bioinks made from living human cell ingredients, which these scientists believe are the key to 3D bioprinting. Instead of using typical ink from regular printer cartridges, the bioprinter uses bioinks made of biological components.
A computer then controls the print process, carefully laying the bioinks down on a plastic bed to create the skin.
“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 researchers wrote. “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.”
European regulatory agencies are currently approving the technology to ensure that physicians can safely use it in a medical capacity. For the moment, the machine’s inventors are considering testing products, such as cosmetics and chemical products, with the bioprinted skin. Then, with proper government approval, more ambitious procedures are sure to follow.