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Bioprinted Skin for the Army

Over at Motherboard, it’s being reported that bioprinting could soon be used on injured soldiers returning from war. 

“The goal is helping soldiers better recover from injuries sustained in battle-and the Army [is] also actively developing artificial 3D printed hearts, blood vessels, and other organs.”

In the latest issue of Army Technology, an official publication of the US military, Michael Romanko, a doctor with the Army’s Tissue Injury and Regenerative Medicine Project says, “the scars that soldiers develop as a result of burns constrict movement and disfigure them permanently.  The initiative to restore high-quality skin that is elastic and complete with sweat glands, appropriate pigmentation, and hair follicles is incredibly important.  Everyone has a different type of energy, and not everyone’s skin injury looks the same.  Skin bioprinting would provide a scalable form of personalized medicine.”

Wake Forest University’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine, where much of the research for this project is taking place, explains just exactly how they went about developing the technology: “scientists designed, built, and tested a printer designed to print skin cells onto burn wounds.  The ‘ink’ is actually different kinds of skin cells.  A scanner is used to determine wound size and depth.  Different kinds of skin cells are found at different depths.  This data guides the printer as it applies layers of the correct type of cells to cover the wound.  You only need a patch of skin one-tenth the size of the burn to grow enough skin cells for skin printing.”

As Romanko further explains, “this has very widespread use, not only to the military audience, but also to the civilian population.  We need a larger commercialization audience in order to be a self-sustaining technology.”

Image Courtesy of the US Army

Quotes Courtesy of Motherboard

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