It certainly would be great if, instead of having to be harvested from a patient’s own body, permanent skin grafts could be 3D-printed as needed. Well, we may be getting a little closer to that point, as scientists have now bioprinted living skin, complete with blood vessels.
While there already is commercially-available 3D-printed living tissue resembling human skin, one of the main challenges is that when it is applied to a patient’s body, the skin eventually sloughs off. This is because these tissues lack the blood vessels that would allow life-giving blood to flow from the patient’s body into them.
In a bid to overcome this limitation, a team of researchers has managed to combine cells found in human blood vessels with other ingredients including animal collagen and printed a skin-like material. The skin was then grafted onto a mouse and was found to connect with the animal’s vessels.
“That’s extremely important because we know there is actually a transfer of blood and nutrients to the graft which is keeping the graft alive,” says Assoc. Prof. Pankaj Karande, leader of the study.
Next up, the researchers need to develop a method of “editing” the donor cells, so that the grafts won’t be rejected by the recipients’ bodies.