Researchers have developed a way to 3D print living skin, complete with blood vessels. The advancement, published online in Tissue Engineering Part A, is a significant step toward creating grafts that are more like the skin our bodies produce naturally.
“Right now, whatever is available as a clinical product is more like a fancy Band-Aid,” says Pankaj Karande, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering and member of the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS), who led this research at Rensselaer. “It provides some accelerated wound healing, but eventually it just falls off; it never really integrates with the host cells.”
A significant barrier to that integration has been the absence of a functioning vascular system in the skin grafts.
Karande has been working on this challenge for several years, previously publishing one of the first papers showing that researchers could take two types of living human cells, make them into “bio-inks,” and print them into a skin-like structure. Since then, he and his team have been working with researchers from Yale School of Medicine to incorporate vasculature.
“This significant development highlights the vast potential of 3D bioprinting in precision medicine, where solutions can be tailored to specific situations and eventually to individuals,” said Deepak Vashishth, director of CBIS. “This is a perfect example of how engineers at Rensselaer are solving challenges related to human health.”