A prototype for a 3D bio printer that can print human skin that is fully functional has been demonstrated by scientists from the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M), CIEMAT (Center for Energy, Environmental and Technological Research), Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Marañón. The company BioDan Group collaborated in this study. Although the skin can be used for testing of chemical, cosmetic and pharmaceutical products, or in research, it is also suitable for transplanting to patients.
As one of the first living human organs created using bio printing and introduced to the marketplace, the skin is truly revolutionary. It reproduces the natural structure of the skin, complete with an external layer. The next layer is the epidermis with its stratum corneum. This layer acts as protection against the external environment. The final layer is the thicker, deeper dermis. This dermis consists of fibroblasts that produce collagen, the protein that provides the skin with mechanical strength and elasticity.
According to the experts, the key to 3D bio printing is bio inks. When skin is created, injectors with biological components are used instead of colored inks and cartridges. Juan Francisco del Cañizo of the Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Marañón and Universidad Complutense de Madrid researcher, noted that what is critical to the system is knowledge of how to mix the biological components, the conditions required to work with them so that the cells don’t decline and how to deposit the product properly. CIEMAT has patented and the BioDan Group has licensed the act of depositing these bio inks. The process is computer controlled, and the bio inks are deposited on a print bed in a systematic manner before producing the skin.
These tissues can be produced in two ways:
- Autologous skin is made from the patient’s own cells on an individual case-by-case basis. This skin has therapeutic uses, such as in the treatment of severe burns.
- Allogeneic skin is done on a large scale and made from a stock of cells. This skin is mainly used for industrial processes.
The authors note that they have managed to avoid using animal collagen that is found in other methods, by only using human cells and components to produce skin. This makes the skin bioactive and it can generate its own human collagen. The team is also researching ways to print other, different types of human tissues.
Alfredo Brisac is the CEO of BioDan Group, the Spanish bioengineering company that is collaborating on this research and will eventually commercialize the technology. The company specializing in regenerative medicine. Brisac pointed out that this new technology has several advantages. The method used for bio printing is less expensive than manual production and it permits skin to be generated in an automated, standardized way.
Various European regulatory agencies are currently in the process of approving this development to ensure that the skin that is produced is suitable for use in transplants on burn patients, and for patients with other skin problems. The tissues can also be used where current regulations does not allow testing using animals. Possible applications include the testing of pharmaceutical products, and cosmetics and consumer chemical products.