Burn wounds: handheld 3D printer to create healthy skin

A team of researchers has designed and developed a handheld 3D printer capable of depositing new layers of biomaterial for the treatment of large and severe burn wounds

At the University of Toronto Engineering and Sunnybrook Health Science Center, a team of researchers has designed and developed a handheld 3D printer capable of depositing new layers of biomaterial for the treatment of large and severe burn wounds.

The project – led by PhD candidate Richard Cheng, under the supervision of Prof. Axel Guenther and in collaboration with Dr. Marc Jeschke – consists of a bio-ink composed of mesenchymal stromatic cells (MSCs), i.e. stem cells able to differentiate into specialized cell types. In this case, the biomaterial promotes skin regeneration and reduces scars.

The device covers wounds with a uniform layer of biomaterial, stripe by stripe, and is the first of its kind to form tissue in situ, depositing and positioning it in just two minutes. The success of in vivo trials on large and severe burn wounds led to the publication of the study in the journal Biofabrication.

To date, the treatment of large and severe burn injuries consists of autologous transplantation of healthy epithelial tissue. «With big burns, you don’t have sufficient healthy skin available, which could lead to patient deaths,» says Dr. Jeschke.

The current prototype 3D handheld printer is the result of 10 redesigns (as of 2018), and the team is aiming for a design that can be used surgically in the operating room. Dr. Jeschke believes that the device can be used in a clinical environment within the next 5 years: «I think this printer will be a game changer in saving lives. With a device like this, it could change the entirety of how we practice burn and trauma care».

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