When someone experiences a serious burn or injury, they undergo skin grafts where skin is surgically transplanted from a healthy part of their body to the site of the injury to promote healing. A recent Rensselaer article discussed a new form of 3D printing that could change the way grafts are produced. A team of scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York developed a way to 3D print living skin, complete with blood vessels.
Current clinical products are essentially glorified bandages that accelerate healing, but eventually fall off rather than integrating with host cells. The new method involves turning living human cells into “bio-inks” that can be printed into skin-like structures that can incorporate vasculature. Over the span of a few weeks, the cells start communicating and forming a vascular structure that integrates with the body. A team at Yale successfully grafted the special skin onto a mouse, but in order for the process to be used on humans, the donor cells need to be editable with something like CRISPR.