Regenerative Medicine Breakthrough: Mobile Bedside Bioprinter May Heal Wounds

February 28, 2019
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Researchers have created a mobile skin bioprinting system that allows bi-layered skin to be printed directly into a wound.

The team demonstrated proof-of-concept of the system by printing skin directly onto pre-clinical models, and the next step is to conduct a clinical trial in humans, they report in Nature’s Scientific Reports journal.

“The unique aspect of this technology is the mobility of the system and the ability to provide on-site management of extensive wounds by scanning and measuring them in order to deposit the cells directly where they are needed to create skin,” says study author Sean Murphy, PhD, an assistant professor at Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in a news release.

Dermal fibroblasts and epidermal keratinocytes are easily isolated from a small biopsy of uninjured tissue and expanded. The cells are then mixed into a hydrogel and placed into the bioprinter. Integrated imaging technology involving a device that scans the wound, feeds the data into the software to tell the print heads which cells to deliver exactly where in the wound layer by layer. Doing so replicates and accelerates the formation of normal skin structure and function. 

Currently, skin grafts to treat wounds and burns are the “gold standard” technique, but adequate coverage of wounds is often a challenge particularly when there is limited availability of healthy skin to harvest.

Skin grafts from donors are an option, but risk immune rejection of the graft and scar formation. With the WFIRM bioprinter system, the researchers could see new skin forming outward from the center of the wound and this only happened when the patient’s own cells were used, because the tissues were accepted and not rejected. 

“The technology has the potential to eliminate the need for painful skin grafts that cause further disfigurement for patients suffering from large wounds or burns,” adds WFIRM Director Anthony Atala, M.D., and a co-author of the paper. “A mobile bioprinter that can provide on-site management of extensive wounds could help to accelerate the delivery of care and decrease costs for patients.” 

“If you deliver the patient’s own cells, they do actively contribute to wound healing by organizing up front to start the healing process much faster,” says James Yoo, M.D., Ph. D, who led the research team and co-authored the paper. “While there are other types of wound healing products available to treat wounds and help them close, those products don’t actually contribute directly to the creation of skin.”

The research was funded by the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center and the Armed Forces Institute for Regenerative Medicine. 

Credit: WFIRM photo

Caption: A mobile skin bioprinter operated on a demo limb by a Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine technician.

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