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Scientists have bioprinted fully functional human skin

For the first time, scientists have successfully bioprinted fully functional skin. Researchers at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine report that they have printed skin samples containing all six major cell types found in human skin.

The result is multi-layered, full-thickness skin, which includes all three layers present in normal human tissue: the epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis. 

“Bioprinting is a promising alternative method to generate skin substitutes because it can replicate the structural organization of the skin into biomimetic layers in vitro,” wrote the study authors. 

Breakthrough for treatment options 

Bioprinted skin opens new possibilities for wound healing and severe burn recoveries, according to the experts. 

“Comprehensive skin healing is a significant clinical challenge, affecting millions of individuals worldwide, with limited options,” said lead researcher Dr. Anthony Atala.

“These results show that the creation of full-thickness, human bioengineered skin is possible, and promotes quicker healing and more naturally appearing outcomes.”

The significance of the bioprinted skin lies in its potential to not only promote quicker healing but also to yield more naturally appearing outcomes, enhancing the quality of life for patients in need.

Promising results 

The lab tests conducted on these bioprinted skin samples showed promising results, with the skin effectively forming blood vessels and skin patterns, and functioning as normal human tissue would. 

Other recorded benefits include improved wound closure, reduced skin contraction, and increased collagen production, which collectively contribute to minimizing scarring.

Unique skin grafts 

Published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the study highlights that the printed skin grafts are unique due to their triple-layer structure that provides full-thickness wound coverage. 

This advancement in skin graft technology addresses a crucial clinical challenge, as current graft options only possess some elements of normal skin, often resulting in a scarred appearance post-procedure.

Skin grafting

Skin grafting is a surgical procedure that transplants healthy skin to cover damaged or missing areas, often due to burns, injuries, or infections. This procedure plays a pivotal role in the treatment of skin-related medical conditions. 

The transplanted skin typically begins developing blood vessels and connecting to the surrounding skin within a few days post-surgery. 

Most skin graft procedures are successful on the first attempt. However, due to various factors including the patient’s overall health, graft size, and the surgical technique employed, the transplanted skin might not heal or “take” well, and additional grafting procedures are needed.

Milestone in medical science 

The introduction of bioprinted skin presents a milestone in medical science, particularly for burn victims, wounded soldiers, and individuals suffering from skin disorders, as it offers an unprecedented opportunity for complete healing. 

Through the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine’s innovative approach, the prospect of crafting full-thickness, human bioengineered skin has transitioned from possibility to reality, setting a new standard in comprehensive skin healing and regeneration.

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