Researchers from the University of Birmingham and the University of Huddersfield used a tissue engineering technique to develop a functional skin equivalent that can be created using a 3D printer. The new discovery could potentially be inserted into wounds to speed up recovery, per an article from Forbes.
The process is described in a research paper published in APL Bioengineering by Richard Moakes, et al.
The complex, three-part nature of skin is the main reason it’s so difficult to create a functional skin equivalent, according to the article.
Just as the average office computer requires ink, so, too, do 3D printers. In the case of 3D printing, the “ink” is the material of which the final structure will be made. When printing tissue analogs, researchers create a “bio-ink” made up of the cell types they’re trying to mimic. In this case, Moakes et al. used pectin and collagen, adjusting the ratio of the mix for each layer of skin.
The study develops potential treatment methods for chronic wounds and offers the possibility of tailoring skin implants to the specific wound, which could ensure the best possible fit and quickest healing.