Spanish scientists create 3D bioprinter which can print functional human skin

By Nick Whigham

Spanish scientists have developed a prototype 3D bioprinter to produce functional human skin. Photo / Universidad Carlos III de Madrid
Spanish scientists have developed a prototype 3D bioprinter to produce functional human skin. Photo / Universidad Carlos III de Madrid

Pretty soon if your skin becomes wrinkly, saggy or damaged you might just be able print yourself some new skin to patch up your ageing body.

It may be the biggest human organ, but it's about to become a lot less finite.

That's because scientists in Spain have developed a prototype for a 3D bioprinter that is capable of producing totally functional human skin.

This new version of human skin is one of the first living human organs created using bioprinting to be introduced to the marketplace. Photo / UMC3 YouTube
This new version of human skin is one of the first living human organs created using bioprinting to be introduced to the marketplace. Photo / UMC3 YouTube

The skin can be used for research purposes, testing cosmetics and other chemical-based products, and for transplanting onto human patients.

"(It) can be transplanted to patients or used in business settings to test chemical products, cosmetics or pharmaceutical products in quantities and with timetables and prices that are compatible with these uses," said José Luis Jorcano, one of the researchers behind the project.

This new version of human skin is one of the first living human organs created using bioprinting to be introduced to the marketplace, according to Phys.org.

The endeavour is a collaboration between scientists at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) and bio-engineering company BioDan Group which specialises in regenerative medicine with a particular focus on skin.

The material the printer produces mimics the structure of skin, with the inside layer consisting of fibroblasts that produce collagen, the protein that gives elasticity and mechanical strength to the skin.

As well as medical applications, one day a similar product could conceivably be used in robotics as the lifelike epidermis of our eventual robot companions.

"This method of bioprinting allows skin to be generated in a standardised, automated way, and the process is less expensive than manual production," Alfredo Brisac, CEO of BioDan Group claimed.

The research was published recently in the electronic version of the scientific journal Biofabrication.

As the authors note, significant progress has been made over the past 25 years in the development of in vitro-engineered substitutes for skin, but bioprinters could make it much easier to produce such materials in a more cost effective way.


"3D bioprinting has emerged as a flexible tool in regenerative medicine," the authors wrote.

"In the present study, we have used this technique to print a human bilayered skin using bioinks containing human plasma as well as primary human fibroblasts and keratinocytes that were obtained from skin biopsies.

"These results demonstrate that 3D bioprinting is a suitable technology to generate bioengineered skin for therapeutical and industrial applications in an automatised manner."

- news.com.au

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