3D skin printer uses patient’s own cells to create new skin for grafts, eliminates painful harvesting
While some of us are using the new power of 3D printers to make smartphone cases and chocolate figurines, two engineering students from the University of Toronto are using them to print functional human skin.
On September 18, Arianna McAllister and Lian Leng were named the Canadian winners of the 2014 James Dyson Award for their invention, the PrintAlive Bioprinter.
The machine – created in collaboration with Professor Axel Guenther, alumnus Boyang Zhang and Dr. Marc Jeschke, head of Sunnybrook Hospital’s Ross Tilley Burn Centre – prints large, continuous layers of tissue that recreate natural skin.
With serious burn victims, doctors typically must remove part of the patient’s healthy skin and graft it onto the burned area. With PrintAlive, this painful step could be eliminated. The printed product includes hair follicles, sweat glands and other human skin complexities, providing an on-demand skin graft for burn victims.
Better yet, the machine uses the patient’s own cells, which McAllister said “would completely eliminate immunologic rejection, and the need for painful autografting and tissue donation.”
No larger than an average microwave, it’s also portable and can print skin grafts on the go, potentially revolutionizing burn care in rural and developing areas around the world.