University of Toronto Engineering and Sunnybrook Hospital have developed a new handheld 3D skin printer to accelerate healing of large, severe burns.
According to the scientists, the handheld 3D printer can deposit uniform sheets of biomaterial to cover large burn wounds, while its ‘bio ink’ accelerates the healing process.
The bio ink dispensed by the roller is composed of Mesenchymal Stroma Cells (MSCs) – stem cells that differentiate into specialized cell types depending on their environment.
In this case, the MSC material promotes skin regeneration and reduces scarring.
The project is led by Richard Cheng, under the supervision of Professor Axel Guenther, and in close collaboration with Dr. Marc Jeschke, director of the Ross Tilley Burn Centre, and his team at Sunnybrook Hospital.
The study is a major step forward from the first prototype the team unveiled in 2018.
“Previously, we proved that we could deposit cells onto a burn, but there wasn’t any proof that there were any wound-healing benefits – now we’ve demonstrated that,” says Guenther.
The current method of care for burns is autologous skin grafting, which requires transplantation of healthy skin from other parts of the body onto the wound.
But large, full-body burns pose a greater challenge as they are characterized by the destruction of both the outermost and innermost layers of the skin.
“With big burns, you don’t have sufficient healthy skin available, which could lead to patient deaths,” says Jeschke.
Since 2018, the printer has gone through 10 redesigns.
The current version includes a single-use microfluidic printhead to ensure sterilization, and a soft wheel that follows the track of the printhead, allowing for better control for wider wounds.
Cheng says that they ultimately want to “further reduce the amount of scarring, on top of helping with wound healing. Our main focus moving forward will be on the in-vivo side.”
Image and content: University of Toronto Engineering