Materials Science

Handheld 3D skin printer could replace skin grafts

Researchers at the University of Toronto say they’ve developed a 3-D skin printer that could ultimately replace skin grafts and heal deep wounds. The handheld 3-D printer looks much like a tape dispenser. It uses an adhesive “bio ink” consisting of substances like collagen and fibrin that are found in natural skin. The researchers say that they can specifically tailor the “skin” that the 3-D printer produces to match individual patients and specific wounds.

The device weighs less than a kilogram and is no larger than a small shoe box. The scientists say that operators won’t need much by way of special training and that there is no need for the washing and incubation processes that most bioprinters require. In addition, the results could be better than those achieved using conventional skin grafts. It’s not always possible to get enough skin for the grafting process, and that can limit healing. The research team plans to continue with animal trials which it hopes will lead to approval for clinical trials on human patients.