A 3D printer, which is already in the process of being commercialized, makes 3D printed skin grafts a reality. Known as the PrintAlive Bioprinter, it was designed and created by engineers of the University of Toronto, namely Arianna McAllister, Boyang Zhang, Lian Leng and associate professors Milica Radisic and Axel Guenther. The designed printer has already reaped the 2014 James Dyson Award for student design.
What’s so groundbreaking about this microwaved sized 3D printer is that it can create print grafts using the patient’s very own skin cells with matching sweat glands and hair follicles. It is also capable of creating large scale and uniform engineering of skin tissues.
The PrintAlive Bioprinter uses biomaterials such as the patient’s own skin cells that are grown in a petri dish and from there the 3D printer can create a bandage like skin graft complete with all skin complexities like hair follicles and sweat glands. The process is quite simple in nature and goes like this: grown cells along with biomaterials are fed into the 3D bioprinter which then extrudes these materials through several channels. What comes out is a fine mosaic hydrogel, a product of the chemical reactions of the biomaterials. This mosaic hydrogel, a sheet like substance, can be layered on to create layers of tissue and is capable of conjoining growth with the living tissues of the human skin.
This process eliminates the painful process of tissue donation and auto-grafting. The huge obstacle of skin grafting is immunologic rejection due to tissue donation—but since the 3D bioprinter makes use of the patient’s own skin cells this problem is totally eradicated.