Scientists Create 3D Bioprinter to Print Human Skin

Spanish scientists have presented a prototype of 3D bioprinter that can produce human skin. The advancement of this technology could help humans with skin issues, but also could be used in research of pharmaceutical and cosmetical products. The human skin will be the first living human organ replicated by 3D bioprinters to be introduced to the marketplace.

Scientists from the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M), CIEMAT (Center for Energy, Environmental and Technological Research), Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Marañón, in collaboration with the firm BioDan Group have recently published their scientific study in the electronic version of the scientific journal Biofabrication.

In their study, researchers demonstrated how the proper human skin can be printed using 3D bioprinter. They explain it could be done in two ways.

One way is the production of the so-called allogeneic skin. This includes building the skin from a stock of cells, for industrial processes. The second way is to create autologous skin, which is made by individual needs. It will be produced from the patient’s own cells, “for therapeutic use, such as in the treatment of severe burns”, they explain in the news release.

The 3D bioprinter actually uses bioinks and injectors with biological components instead of classic cartridges and colored inks. In this way, the scientists can replicate the natural structure of the skin – with epidermis, dermis and the layer of fibroblasts that produce collagen.

Juan Francisco del Cañizo, of the Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Marañón and Universidad Complutense de Madrid, one of the researchers, said though the entire process is controlled by computers, it is also important “to know how to mix the biological components, in what conditions to work with them so that the cells don’t deteriorate, and how to correctly deposit the product is critical to the system.”

“We use only human cells and components to produce skin that is bioactive and can generate its own human collagen, thereby avoiding the use of the animal collagen that is found in other methods,” the team notes.

The finding is currently in the phase of being approved by different European regulatory agencies to guarantee the safety of the 3D bioprinting the human skin. When the safety and adequacy of the human skin produced in this way are tested and proven, it can be used in transplants on burn patients and those with other skin problems.

Additionally, it will be used “to test chemical products, cosmetics or pharmaceutical products in quantities and with timetables and prices that are compatible with these uses”, as one of the authors, José Luis Jorcano, professor in UC3M’s department of Bioengineering and Aerospace Engineering and head of the Mixed Unit CIEMAT/UC3M in Biomedical Engineering explains.

This new technology is less expensive than manual production and it allows skin to be generated in standardized, automated way. That is certainly a great advantage. The team hopes the next step is bioprinting of other human tissues and organs.