When it comes to treating burns, we really haven’t progressed very far. Oh, we have ways of at least trying to fight all the problems that surround a burn, like infection and shock, but the burn itself is still mostly up to the best practices of mother nature.
We have a basically helpful topical cream or two, but when it comes to regrowing damaged or destroyed patches of skin we really can’t do much to assist the body’s own processes — but that may be about to change.
In a confluence of medical science, cell biology, hydrogel chemistry, and 3D printing engineering, a team from the University of Toronto have created a 3D bio-printer that could essentially create a therapy for burns where none existed before.
Very severe burns, those that penetrate multiple layers of skin, are tricky to heal because they’ve killed highly differentiated cell types; not only do you have to make multiple cell types, but you’ve got to make sure they are each laid down in just the right way. Each requires a unique chemical environment, and each interacts with the layers around it to survive.
This bioprinter, called the PrintAlive project, can actually lay down both top layers of skin at once, allowing it to print viable “living bandages” that both protect the wound physically and grow with surrounding healthy skin to become part of the body overall. … (Read more)