A team of researchers in Canada has successfully tested a new hand-held 3D skin printer that treats severe burns by "printing" new skin cells directly on the wound.
Although the new system is in the early stages of development, it may eventually provide a way to treat patients whose burn injuries are too extensive to allow skin grafts. The results are reported today (February 4, 2020) in the journal IOP Publishing Biofabrication.
Senior author, Professor Axel Gunter from the University of Toronto, said: "Skin grafts, where damaged tissue is removed and replaced with skin taken from another area of the patient's body, are the standard treatment for serious burns.
"However, in cases where the patient has extensive full-thickness burns that destroy the upper and lower layers of the skin, there is not always enough healthy skin to use.
Co-author Dr. Mark Jeschke, medical Director of the Ross Tilly burn Center at the Sunnybrook centre for medical Sciences in Toronto, said: "in General, the wound surfaces for which we developed this device are not flat and are not oriented horizontally. One of the most important advantages of the device is that it must ensure uniform application of the bioinker layer on inclined surfaces.
To overcome these difficulties, the research team developed a portable device for applying precursor sheets directly to wounds of any size, shape, or topography. It uses a bioink based on fibrin-a protein involved in blood clotting - infused with mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCS), which support the growth of local cells and help the body's immune response. This is "printed" directly on the wound from the device's soft roller.
Co-author Dr. mark Jeschke, medical Director of the Ross Tilly burn Center at the Sunnybrook center for medical Sciences in Toronto, said: "in General, the wound surfaces for which we developed this device are not flat and are not oriented horizontally. One of the most important advantages of the device is that it must ensure uniform application of the bioinker layer on inclined surfaces.
"In this study, we tested whether the device can do this effectively by using it to treat full-thickness burns in pigs. We found that the device successfully applied "skin sheets" to wounds evenly, safely and reliably, and the sheets remained in place with minimal movement.
"Most importantly, our results showed that wounds treated with MSC healed very well, with a reduction in inflammation, scarring, and contraction compared to both untreated wounds and wounds treated with collagen scaffold."
Professor Gunter said: "We are very pleased with this successful trial. In addition to excellent healing results, we have shown that the device offers a user-friendly way to safely deliver cells and biomaterials. Further research is required, but the signs are promising, and the potential clinical use of the device goes far beyond full-thickness burn injuries."