Need medical assistance after a blaster fight on a spaceship? This new handheld, portable 3D printer could help. Scientists at the University of Toronto created the 3D skin printer that looks like it came straight from a science fiction movie. The device, according to the university, “forms tissue in situ, depositing and setting in place, within two minutes or less.”
This new portable 3D skin printer looks like a white-out tape dispenser, in the description of the university, but instead of a tape roll, the printer includes “a microdevice that forms tissue sheets.” Bio ink comprised of protein-based biomaterials like collagen and fibrin runs along the tissue sheets in vertical stripes. Collagen is the most abundant protein found in the dermis, and fibrin, another protein, is part of wound healing. Navid Hakimi, study lead author and PhD student, said in the statement, “Our skin printer promises to tailor tissues to specific patients and wound characteristics.”
Many current 3D bioprinters are “bulky, work at low speeds, are expensive, and are incompatible with clinical application,” according to associate professor Axel Guenther. In contrast, this handheld printer is about as big as a small shoe box and weighs under one kilogram. The university said the device “also requires minimal operator training and eliminates the washing and incubation stages required by many conventional bioprinters.”
The journal Lab on a Chip published the research last month; researchers from the Ross Tilley Burn Center at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center contributed. The team’s work isn’t finished — they aim to add multiple capabilities to the skin printer such as “expanding the size of the coverable wound areas.” They’re also planning further in vivo studies with the Sunnybrook team, and are shooting for clinical trials in humans in the future.