The bioprinted skin mimics the structure of human skin, according to researchers at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M). It has an external layer—the epidermis with its stratum corneum—that protects against environmental factors and a thicker, deeper layer—the dermis—that gives the bioprinted skin its elasticity and mechanical strength.
Bioprinted skin is used to make allogeneic skin on a large scale for industrial purposes and from a stock of cells. It is also used to make autologous skin for therapy from a patient’s own cells. This in-vitro engineered development allows the skin to be used as grafts for skin replacement or to establish in-vitro human skin models.
The skin can also be used for testing pharmaceutical products and cosmetics or consumer chemical products that would usually require testing on animals.
The skin is developed using different methods that depend on what the skin is going to be used for. If the skin is going to treat burns, the scientists grab cells from the patient and essentially use artificial cell production to accelerate the growth of the skin. Normal cell production would take a couple of weeks, but to create enough cells to treat burn patients, cell production is reduced to one to two days with the bioprinter.
To print the skin, scientists used bioinks that contained human plasma and primary human fibroblasts and keratinocytes that originated from skin biopsies. They made 100 cm2 of printed skin in less than 35 minutes. The skin is made completely from living cells — no plastics, ceramics or collagen.
Bioinks have the potential to provide growth—and function-supportive bioinks to cells and to minimize printing effects on cell viability, according to a study published by the National Institutes of Health.
Bioinks are patented by CIEMAT and licensed by the BioDan Group.
“This method of bioprinting allows skin to be generated in a standardized, automated way, and the process is less expensive than manual production,” said Alfredo Brisac, CEO of BioDan Group, a Spanish bioengineering firm that specializes in regenerative medicine and is collaborating on this research.
The bioprinter has three components: a programmable computer that controls the activity of the bioprinter, bioinks, and a printing unit that organizes the bioinks to make the skin.
The bioprinter technology is awaiting approval from European regulatory agencies to assure that the skin produced is good enough for transplants on burn patients and anyone with skin problems.
[Want to stay more on top of MDO content? Subscribe to our weekly e-newsletter.]