Spanish researchers create a bio-printer in 3D of human skin

A team of Spanish researchers have developed a prototype bio-printer in 3D that manufactures “fully functional” human skin. This skin “is suitable for transplantation and can also be used in the research and testing of cosmetic and pharmaceutical products,” explains José Luis Jorcano, professor in the Bioengineering department in Carlos III  University of  Madrid (UC3M) and responsible for The unit of Biomedical Engineering of the Mixed Unit Center for Energy, Environmental and Technological Research (CIEMAT) / UC3M.
The great advantage of the printer, says Jorcano, is that it allows the creation of skin “in an automated and standardized way, which improves the reproducibility of the process, and also makes it possible to significantly lower production costs.”
At present, the production of skin for use in research or care, for example, of large burnings, is done manually. A tissue sample is taken through a biopsy; Then these cells are cultured for a few weeks until the necessary skin regeneration is achieved.
On a larger scale and in a more automated way, the bio-printer allows “replicate the natural structure of the skin, with an outer layer, the epidermis, along with a deeper, dermis,” explains Jorcano, who clarifies that the project is In the phase of approval by different European regulatory organisms that must give the approval to its use in patients.
As with the manual technique, the skin created by the bioprinter does not allow, for the moment, the reproduction, among other structures, of the sebaceous glands present in the skin, although it is something that the team is already working on. “The next step we are investigating is the treatment and the generation of these structures that are not continuous, but are in specific positions of the skin. We are still studying it, but we have indicators of how to produce things that we could not do manually, like Sebaceous glands or hair, “says Jorcano.
“The heart of the bio-printer,” continues the researcher, “is what they call” bio inks “, the equivalent of the color cartridges used by conventional printers.” The most complicated is the design of these bio inks that, as if they were syringes ‘Are filled with different components’: keratinocytes and fibroblasts, the two fundamental cellular types in the skin, growth factors, scaffold substances for development to be correct, etc.
A computer then places the “right mix at the right time” into the skin where the skin is produced, which is then fed into an incubator at a controlled temperature.
The bioprinter can produce autologous skin, that is, created from the patient’s own cells (often necessary for therapeutic purposes) or allogeneic, which is made from cell banks or donors and is the most suitable for testing products Chemicals, pharmaceuticals or cosmetics.
In both cases it is necessary to remove the cells and culture in the laboratory for several weeks. “The use of the bio-printer allows to speed up a bit the times, but not too much because what marks the duration is the growth rate of the cells”, explains Jorcano.
Development is currently being approved by various European regulatory bodies “to ensure that the skin produced is suitable for use in transplants of patients with burns and other skin problems,” but the creators hope that “in a few months The product may already be on the market “,
The creators of this device hope that, in the not too distant future, it can also be used for the printing of other more complex tissues, such as blood vessels or heart valves.