It’s been four years since researchers have created a 3D printer the size of a microwave oven. With it, they could create sheets of skin to treat burns. Now, a few of the same researchers have worked to develop a new device. This one is smaller and lightweight, it can be held with one hand and it can print skin directly on deep wounds.
Axel Guenther is the associate professor at the University of Toronto, who supervises the team led by Ph.D. student Navid Hakimi. Guenther explains that current 3D bioprinters are “bulky, work at low speeds, are expensive, and are incompatible with clinical application,” whereas the new printer can be held in one hand, weights under one kilogram and is as small as a shoe box. Moreover, the device is also user-friendly, says the university:
The device “also requires minimal operator training and eliminates the washing and incubation stages required by many conventional bioprinters.”
Similar to a White-Out Tape Dispenser
The device works like a white-out tape dispenser, dispensing sheets of alginate-based tissue instead of tape. In each sheet of tissue, there are stripes of bio-ink that contains skin cells and collagen and other biological materials to help with healing of the wound.
The device can cover a wound with skin in a couple of minutes or less and it has been already tested on rats and pigs. The researchers are now planning to go to the next stage, and see how much area of wounds can be covered with the handheld printer. After other tests, clinical trials will eventually begin.
Hakimi explains that their “skin printer promises to tailor tissues to specific patients and wound characteristics. And it’s very portable.”
The research has recently been published in the journal Lab on a Chip, under the title “Handheld skin printer: in situ formation of planar biomaterials and tissues.”
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.