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3D Printed Skin with Working Blood Vessels

The Smithsonian reports on a “promising new technique, which could lead to lasting skin grafts after burns or other injuries.” This new technique involves 3D printed skin which develops working blood vessels.

This technique, which was undertaken at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and Yale University, “uses living human skin cells turned into a liquid ‘bio ink.’ The bio ink is used to print artificial skin, which then grows its own blood vessel system.”

As Professor Pankaj Karande of Chemical and Biological Engineering at RPI, who led the research, explains: “the vasculature is very important because this is how the host and the graft talk to each other. Communication between host and graft is critical if the skin substitute is not to be rejected by the body.”

The bio ink Karande’s team is using “contains cells from infant foreskin, human endothelial cells from umbilical cord blood, human endothelial colony forming cells, and human placental pericytes from placenta tissue, which are then all suspended in collagen from rat tails.”

This high tech witch’s brew “forms the inner layer of the skin, the dermis. A second bio ink, made from another type of human foreskin cell, keratinocytes, is printed on top to form the outer layer of the skin, the epidermis. Then, in the petri dish, endothelial cells and the placental pericytes begin to assemble themselves into tiny vascular networks.”

Following all this, “the team implanted the grafts on mice and found the blood vessels connected with the mice’s own vascular networks within four weeks. This means blood flowed between the mice and their skin grafts.” Karande adds: “we see the graft stays there longer, and the skin matures and becomes closer to what we would see in native human tissue.”

Of course, this does not means the team’s grafts are quite ready for human trials just yet. As Karande concludes: “we’re still at the basic research stage. We’re still figuring out basic problems and what the right answers may be.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of The Smithsonian

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